Xperimania V : industry representatives and students from 21 schools discuss the topic “Chemistry is all about you”

The first Xperimania chat in collaboration with inGenious took place on Thursday 25 October 2012. This chat dealt with the topic “Chemistry is all about you” which was inspired by the issues that were addressed in the EPCA film “Chemistry: All About You”.

During one and a half hour, students had the opportunity to ask topic-related questions to the four experts:
Aniouta Belevitch, Chairperson of the Young EPCA Think Tank, C4 Commercial Manager Europe, Total Refining & Petrochemicals
Wouter Bleukx, PhD, Member of the Young EPCA Think Tank, Order to Cash & Supply Chain Business Support Manager, Ineos Chlorvinyls
Pierre de Kettenis, Executive Director,  CEFIC Petrochemistry Industry Sector (APPE)
Christian Koulic, New Technologies Business Development Manager, Total Refining & Chemicals.

21 schools participated in the first Xperimania-inGenious chat: Belgium (1), Croatia (1), Estonia (2), Germany (1), Italy (3), Lithuania (1), Portugal (3), Romania (2), Slovakia (4), Spain (1), and United Kingdom (2). Experts answered the large majority of questions by referring to their experience, scientific knowledge and by bringing many examples. This made the whole chat very lively and interactive, allowed students to relate well to the experts and the topic and highlighted the importance of chemistry in our everyday lives.

Students asked a number of questions relating to chemistry, such as “How will chemistry help in the future”? Mr. Koulic replied to this question: “We know that in 2050 we will be 9 billion people. We will need more energy and more water. We have to be careful with greenhouse gases emissions and try to reduce them. For all those mega trends, chemistry can be considered a solution enabler.”

The students also showed their concern for chemicals used in food production, to which Mr. Bleukx reassured the participants by saying: “Often when we talk about chemicals in food people think that non-natural products are added, whilst they often are from natural original and they contribute for instance to a better food conservation.”

The students were also wondering “How realistic is the assumption that renewable energy sources can replace fossil fuels?” Mr. de Kettenis answered: “There are more and more studies now in different countries trying to quantify how much land you will need to replace the fossil material and the results are not very optimistic. I have one example of a study in the Netherlands which indicates that the Netherlands would use six times the surface actually used to grow sugar beets to replace only 10% of the olefin production capacity in the Netherlands”.

During the chat, the industry representatives also stressed the importance of recycling: “The aim is that plastic, for example, does not end up in the general garbage bag” emphasized Ms. Belevitch. The industry representatives also emphasized the important roles the students play in educating their parents to improve their families’ recycling habits.

Students participating in this chat were equally interested in knowing what a STEM job is like and whether more men or more women work in the chemical industry. The industry representatives explained how a typical working day looks like for them describing the vast number of tasks and responsibilities they accomplish every day. In terms of the gender balance within the chemical industry, they mentioned  that there is still a shortage of women, although this can vary according to the nature of the work.  Thus the industry representatives encouraged all students and especially girls to study STEM, as this will ensure a great career for their future.

The chat currently continues on the Xperimania facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/xperimaniaV).

This chat is also linked to a mini-competition in which every student is encouraged to participate. Students will need to submit a “lessons learned” document and the top 3 winners will receive an Amazon voucher.

More information on the initiative can be found on http://www.xperimania.net/ww/en/pub/xperimania/talk2us/

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