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Why do snowflakes have six points?

Dr. Chris Fennell

March 19, 2016
An interactive session led by Dr. Chris Fennell

Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Oklahoma State University

Why do snowflakes have six points? How do you make ice flow like liquid water? Why are the strawberry flavored Runts candies SO much better than the banana flavored ones? The shapes of tiny molecules direct much about the properties of materials that we see and touch. Here, we will explore molecular shape and its consequences using molecular modeling with computer simulation, 3D printing, and analogous system experiments using non-traditional materials. We will see how hands-on modeling of molecules can lead to deeper insights about the extremely small and hard to see molecular world.

Dr. Fennell grew up in Iowa, and while he didn’t live on a farm with cornfields, he would regularly play in them on his grandfather’s farm. After getting his Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame and spending time studying biomolecular modeling in California and New York, he moved back to the middle of the country to be an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Oklahoma State University. As a computational chemist, Dr. Fennell is able to fulfill a lifelong dream of building models for a living, though they are molecular models rather than model airplanes.

After the interactive session the students will be escorted by their parents to have lunch and then to the hands-on portion of the event. There the students will enjoy the experience of interacting with various exhibits from the Virginia Tech community.