Outreach and Education Division

    The EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIVISION supports chemistry education at all levels, including K-12, college, and adult/continuing education. It maintains liaisons to the Chicago Public Schools and the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT). The Division engages the general public in chemistry-related educational activities, participates in ACS activities at the annual Illinois State Fair, and publicizes all events and news-related content. The division oversees the annual Project SEED program for the Section as well as the Project SEED scholarships. The Division also assists public officials and other community bodies concerning chemistry-related matters. The Education and Outreach Division includes the Education, Outreach, Project SEED, and Public Affairs Committees.

    The EDUCATION COMMITTEE provides chemistry-related educational programs and information to learners of all ages and actively engages with educators at the pre-K-12 and college levels. Subcommittees include:

    • AACT Liaison
    • College Education Subcommittee
    • Continuing Education Subcommittee
    • Chicago School Board Liaison
    • K - 12 Education Subcommittee


    The PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE ensures that section members and public officials and bodies are informed of matters where the knowledge and practice of chemistry is of substantial public importance. These matters can include government issues, environmental issues and the social responsibility of chemists. The Public Affairs Committee gives the Public Affairs Award biennially.

    The OUTREACH COMMITTEE engages the general public, educators and children in chemistry-related educational activities and participates in many different types of events around the greater Chicago area.   Subcommittees include:

    • Community Activities Subcommittee
    • Illinois State Fair Subcommittee


    PROJECT SEED COMMITTEE identifies interested low-income and/or minority high school junior and senior students who are interested in participating in a paid summer research experience with  a college or university faculty member.  It supports financial and logistical concerns for the student/ faculty relationships and communicating  relevant program information to the national ACS organization.  The committee is also responsible for distributing Project SEED awards to support the internships. 

    Aspirin Tummy Test

    Kids, we all know that aspirin is a medicine, but did you know that it is also a chemical?  It’s name is acetylsalicylic acid.  You have probably heard that it can cause stomach discomfort in some people – maybe even yours, too.  One way to lessen this is to combine the aspirin with an acid buffer — a combination of chemicals that reduces acidity.  This buffered aspirin is a genuine help for this group of people.  But for people who have take aspirin every day (like arthritis sufferers), this is not good enough.  For them, chemists invented specially coated aspirin tablets that pass through the stomach without dissolving.  The coating resists the acid juices of the stomach, but dissolves quickly in the basic environment of the small intestine.   Called “enteric” aspirin, they obviously take a bit longer to work. 

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    In this column you will simulate a stomach to observe the chemistry of aspirin there.  You can see the difference between regular aspirin, buffered aspirin, and enteric aspirin by testing the tablets in neutral, acidic, and basic solutions.   Your stomach is acidic, but your small intestine is basic.  Begin with three clear glasses or plastic cups.  Add 1/2 cup (120 ml) of water to each container.  Note the time, then simultaneously add a regular aspirin tablet to one container, a buffered aspirin to another, and an enteric aspirin tablet to the third.  Note changes in the tablets at 30-second intervals until no further change is evident.  To simulate the acid environment of the stomach, repeat this procedure using vinegar in each container instead of water.  You will see one of the tablets dissolve more vigorously than before.   To simulate the basic intestine, repeat the experiment once more using a solution made by adding 16.3 g (1.5 teaspoons) of powdered baking soda, NaHCO3, to each 1/2 cup of water.  One of the tablets will dissolve suddenly after a delay of 20-30 minutes.

    For the more technical students in the audience, we did a bit of research into buffering agents and coatings.  The typical buffers used to raise the pH of aspirin are MgO and CaCO3 (magnesium oxide and calcium carbonate).   Enteric coatings appear to have recently changed to an aqueous acrylic resin such as methacrylic acid copolymer, although phthalates of cellulose polymers may still be used.

    Here is another interesting aspirin chemistry note.  As acetylsalicylic acid ages, it can decompose to salicylic acid and acetic acid.  If you have a very old bottle of asprin around the house, open it and take a whiff.  It might smell like vinegar, which is dilute acetic acid.  This is one reason why there are expiration dates!


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    January 2005



    Gail Marsella and David Robson, ACS ChemMatters, February 1993.

    Enteric coatingsPharmaceutical Technology, 2004