Campers experience freedom in the lab at Millikin’s Chemistry Camp

The junior and high school students also shared their work at a Presentation Dinner with family and friends.

DECATUR, Ill. – When Lily Monigold put on her lab coat and took part in Millikin University’s annual Chemistry and Biochemistry Camp, July 10-13, 2023, she enjoyed freedom in the lab that she hadn’t experienced in high school. 

“My favorite part is the freedom that we have had. A lot of time in the high school lab, you are given a list of procedures and the exact experiment you have to do. You have to follow these steps and have a limited amount of time,” Lily said. “Here, we get some general instruction to base things on, but then we can really change it. After we do that test, depending on how it went, we can change variables and we have a lot of wiggle room to try cool things.”

Lily recently graduated from Le Roy High School and will join Millikin as an incoming first-year student majoring in Pre-Health Biology. She used the camp as an opportunity to get more familiar with the labs she will be working in for years to come. 

Chemistry Camp
Lily Monigold will be a first-year student at Millikin in the fall. 

“I’m hoping to do things with genetics, and I know genetics has a lot of chemistry. I’ll have many chemistry labs coming up, so I wanted to get more lab experience while I am here,” Lily said. “The (Leighty-Tabor Science Center) is amazing, and I have done some tours and have seen the really cool equipment. A lot of it is open to the students, and if you are willing to go in and figure it out and learn it, it is there for you. The resources are there and you just have to seek them out.”

The camp is overseen by Dr. Anne Rodriguez, Millikin Associate Professor in the School of Chemistry and Physics. 

Chemistry Camp
Campers from the 2023 Millikin Chemistry and Biochemistry Camp. 

“The camp is 100% to get students more experience in the lab, which I think many students struggle to achieve. It also allows students to explore Performance Learning at Millikin,” she said. “This is the fifth year of the camp, and we hope to continue to have it and make it bigger and better and more diverse as we go.”

Argenta-Oreana High School student Roman Hunter focused on an experiment of decellularization, which is the process of chemically or physically removing the cellular compartment of living tissues. The process could one day assist in helping organ transplants avoid rejection. 

Chemistry Camp
Dr. Anne Rodriguez (left) talks with Roman Hunter about his experiment. 

“My favorite part has been doing the experiments. I haven’t done chemistry experiments outside the basic ones like vinegar and baking soda. I hoped to do as much as I could because we don’t have any of this stuff at school,” Roman said. “I really like the (Leighty-Tabor Science Center) and how it is laid out. Biology is just a few steps down the hall from Chemistry.”

Lily and her lab partner were focused on synthesizing aspirin in the lab and then doing further tests on its purity. 

“It was an idea for an experiment that I brought in. Dr. Rodriguez is really good at letting us do what we want to do,” Lily said. “I was researching a bunch of cool ideas that we could do, and it looked like an experiment with many steps but wasn’t out of reach with our limited time to do it. It was a good one to try out and we can do a bunch of tests on the aspirin once we have made it to determine its purity.”

Chemistry Camp
Students run experiments at the Millikin Chemistry and Biochemistry Camp. 

After several days of lab work, the camp concluded with a Presentation Dinner where campers shared their research accomplishments with family and friends. 

“I’m excited about it because my lab partner and I have invited our science teachers from our high schools to come, so our parents and teachers will be there,” Lily said. “I think it will be cool for them to see the things we are working on over the summer and maybe give them ideas of things they can do in the labs in the high schools.”