What’s your (chemistry) fantasy?

When I’m on a plane, or at a party, or when I don’t know how to keep a conversation going, here’s a question I like to ask: “What’s your rock and roll fantasy?” You get one shot. One night; the crowd could be 50 or 50,000. You could perform solo or be backed up by the London Symphony Orchestra, the Rolling Stones, or that guy who busks in the subway. You can play guitar, drums, bagpipes — whatever you want.1

So what’s your rock and roll fantasy? And what does it have to do with teaching chemistry?

Everything and nothing.

My rock and roll fantasy — and I think of it a lot (too much) — makes me think of what my chemistry fantasy would be. Would it be to teach the perfect organic chemistry lesson? Maybe I’d like to perfect a synthesis of a rare, single enantiomer, cancer-preventing substance, starting from nail polish remover, shiitake mushrooms and a nine volt battery. Maybe I’d like to prepare a new kind of krazy glue that will glue anything — except one’s fingers.

I’m thinking that we could ask incoming chemistry students about their chemistry fantasy. This half-page assignment might be a decent way to get to know our pupils. What are they thinking about, chemistry-wise? Do they want a vehicle for getting into medical school, do they want to cure disease, are they incipient engineers… or do they simply want to learn chemistry?

So what’s your chemistry fantasy? And what are your students’ chemistry fantasies?


  1. My choice — no thought required — would be vocals. In Nashville.

[Editor’s note: My chemistry fantasy would be to have an element named after me — jeanium. It would also get a J on the periodic table. Please email your chemistry fantasy to Jean Hein, jhein@uwaterloo.ca and we will share them with Chem 13 News readers.]