Although he wasn’t wearing a three-suit and dealing with the day-by-day operations of a major research institution, Washington University Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton looked right at home in the auditorium of the Arts & Sciences Lab Sciences Building.
Make that “Magic Mark” looked right at home. And perhaps that’s because Wrighton has spent many years in a chemistry lab.
But Sunday, Wrighton put on a display of chemistry magic for people attending Washington University’s 150th birthday celebration.
Sans tie, Wrighton — in a white lab coat with “Magic Mark” stitched on the back — immediately put the overflow crowd at ease by saying “I hope some of you in the front row will help me today. I won’t make you disappear — for too long!”
He then spent about 30 minutes giving demonstrations of basic chemical reactions (vinegar and baking soda), and those more complex, using dry ice and liquid nitrogen.
At one point, Wrighton mentioned he was thirsty, needed a break and filled a Styrofoam cup with liquid nitrogen. After raising it to his lips, he blew out some “smoke” a few times, until a youngster in the front row said “Blow it out your nose!”
After the laughter subsided, Wrighton kept on with the demonstrations, including making nails out of a rubber hose solidified in the liquid nitrogen; using dry ice to make colored solutions bubble, fizz and transform colors; and concluding the demonstration with a makeshift volcano in a darkened room.
Wrighton’s exhibition is far from the lone highlight of the day.
Morning exhibits included “Physics With A Bang,” given by Thomas Bernatowicz, professor of physics in Arts & Sciences; readings by short fiction writer Marshall Klimasewiski and university graduate students; ice cream made with liquid nitrogen; and a basketball clinic.
With more than 200 activities and events planned — ranging from lectures, readings and performances, to health screenings, sports clinics and interactive mock trials — the day promises to offer something of interest to everyone.
All 200-plus events are free and open to the public. Complimentary food and beverages will be available during the open house.
A performance by the world-renowned Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra will cap the day at 7 p.m. in Brookings Quadrangle. Guests are welcome to bring food, beverages, blankets or lawn chairs to the concert. “In celebrating our 150th birthday we are reaffirming our commitment to the community,” Wrighton said. “We are delighted to open our campus to members of our community and hope that everyone will have an enjoyable time exploring our facilities and learning about what we do.”
The birthday party will kick off the university’s sesquicentennial year with a bang. Highlights will include concerts from members of the university’s music program, readings from faculty writers, dance presentations, and international games and music.
Free shuttles to the School of Medicine, the No. 2 ranked medical school in the country, will allow visitors to enjoy tours, lectures and demonstrations, free posture analysis, and blood pressure and cholesterol screenings.
The birthday party will be great fun for children as well. Lewis, believed to be the world’s first robotic photographer will be on hand to take photos; professor and distinguished author Gerald Early will read children’s literature; the Dred Scott case will be re-enacted; and baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball clinics will be offered. Kids will also have an opportunity to browse through an amazing collection of pop-up books and can even try making their own.
A highlight for children will be Goldilocks on Trial — Goldilocks v. the Three Bears. Students will present two performances of the fun mock trial for children and their families. Children, who will be asked to serve as jurors, will be entertained while also learning some of the terminology and mechanics of a trial.