Society of Chemistry Undergraduate Majors promotes chemistry through experimental demonstrations


SCUM performing at Cyclone Family Weekend. 

Haley Thams

The Society of Chemistry Undergraduate Majors (SCUM) is a club on Iowa State’s campus that promotes chemistry through chemical demonstration. 

SCUM meets from 7 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday in Gilman Hall.

Many of their meetings consist of trying new experiments for their performances in the community.

SCUM is an outreach based club that promotes science by performing for schools, campus events, family weekends and more to teach about different reactions. 

One of the demonstrations the group practiced for their next performance was an experiment called “Methane Mamba.” In this experiment, they mixed methanol and soap and pumped gas to create bubbles. The bubbles climb up a chain that they lit on fire with a candlestick.

Thomas Hernandez, a senior studying chemistry, recently joined SCUM.

“I heard about it online initially, but I went to [Chemistry Learning Community] and they told me more about it,” Hernandez said. 

Hernandez believes SCUM is a great opportunity for him to network with students in his major and performing and watching the experiments are huge benefits.

SCUM tailors the experiments to their audience. Their next showing is Oct. 9 and will be a performance for eighth grade students involved in Science Bound. 

SCUM meetings are very hands-on, so anyone who has had the proper safety training can try the different experiments. 

While perfecting different experiments, the club discovered a new inquiry about soap, water and dry ice. This discovery is something they stumbled upon but found to be safe for their audience to touch with a glove, making it perfect for their next performance. 

Students do not need to be a chemistry major to join SCUM, but many of the chemistry classes, such as CHEM 101, advocate for joining the club. 

Marijke Nielsen, a junior studying chemistry and president of SCUM, has been a member since her freshman year. 

“We needed someone to step into the role [as president], and a bunch of our new exec board is new this year, so it’s baby steps,” Nielsen said. 

Nielsen explained that she enjoys engaging with people her age in similar majors through SCUM. She also enjoys the volunteering aspect of SCUM and working with kids during performances. 

“The most rewarding thing about this club is getting to see kids’ faces when something explodes or changes colors, how excited they are about the chemistry and the science that we do,” Nielsen said. 

Nielsen ensured everyone’s ideas are valued in SCUM, and each of their minds are curious as to what they can change or add to different experiments. 

“I love everyone, and we have so much fun. I truly love the science behind all of it. It’s so fun to get to see how people react,” Nielsen said.

Benjamin Noack is the academic adviser who oversees SCUM. Noack is a Liberal Arts and Sciences academic adviser who graduated from Iowa State and was a former president of SCUM. 

“I went into research after [graduating] so I was an analytical chemist in a couple of different labs here on campus. Then I started teaching and that got me interested in coming back to be an adviser here on campus,” Noack said. 

SCUM excels at showing students of all ages how important science is in communities and how much it can teach people.

SCUM is a continuously growing club on campus and has many opportunities for students of any major to get involved. 

Students and faculty can watch one of their performances, “Spirits in the Gardens,” from 5 to 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Reiman Gardens. Tickets are $10 for the public and $8 for members and ISU students. Tickets can be purchased from the Reiman Gardens website.

If you are interested in joining SCUM, contact [email protected].