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September 8, 2008
Volume 86, Number 36
pp. 64-66

The Ivory Tower Goes Green

Green chemistry in the curriculum boosts student interest in science

Corinne Marasco

A FEW YEARS AGO, one of Irv Levy's students told him she wanted to write her organic chemistry research paper on green chemistry. Levy was skeptical. He didn't think green chemistry sounded like "real chemistry."

"It sounded like touchy-feely tree hugging," he recalls. "I recommended that she consider another topic, but she insisted." So he reluctantly agreed.

Simmons College
GREEN CHEMISTS King (left) and Boice of Simmons College are green advocates. King's project focused on characterizing the antibacterial and antimicrobial activities of lactic acid. Boice initiated the cups-to-cleaners project.

In the meantime, Levy, an organic chemistry professor at Gordon College, in Wenham, Mass., attended a panel discussion on green chemistry at the 2003 American Chemical Society national meeting in New Orleans, prompted by his student's interest. He says he came out of the session with a totally new outlook.

"I felt like my career had changed," he says. "Green chemistry went from two words to something that I couldn't ignore." He was so motivated by the session that he applied to attend a workshop on green chemistry in education at the University of Oregon, an experience he calls "transformational."

Gordon College is a member of the Green Chemistry Education Network (GCEdNet), a clearinghouse for green chemistry educational materials created by Julie A. Haack of the University of Oregon (