CHEM-420: The Science and Art of Chemical Demonstrations


CHEM-420 is a course run by an upper-level chemistry student in the spring of each year.  This course explores what it means to give an effective presentation of a chemical demonstration, focusing on presentation skills, communication of the ideas behind chemical processes to various audience types, the process of finding, troubleshooting, and finally presenting a demonstration, and how to interact with your audience.  One of the primary functions of the course is to give a presentation during WesFest that highlights the strengths of the chemistry department at Wesleyan.  Additionally, trips are made to local schools to give interesting presentations to younger students and promote a general interest in chemistry.


Each year the CHEM-420 group puts on a show during WesFest (usually in April) that is open to all prospective and current Wesleyan students, the purpose of which is to communicate information about the chemistry department and community at Wesleyan while presenting an enjoyable demonstration show.  The show has in recent years been titled "Barely Controlled Substances" and "Big Fire Friday".


Coming soon

Outreach (Local Schools)

The CHEM-420 class has in the past done demonstrations at Middletown High School for a range of class levels.  If you are a chemistry or general science teacher interested in having the CHEM-420 class give a presentation in your classroom, please contact Professor Wesmoreland at

Previous WesFest Photos

Photos from previous WesFest events can be found here: WesFest 2012.

WesFest 2015 Photos

  • Sarah Briggs '16 ignites a large pile of "gun cotton", or nitrated cellulose
  • Jacques Bazile '16 ignites bubbles of hydrogen and oxygen, assisted by Lexie Malico '16, Sarah Briggs '16, and Professor Westmoreland
  • Mackenzie Schlosser '16 and Jake Katofsky '16 demonstrating ability of human blood to maintain a stable pH
  • Lexie Malico '16 uses molten potassium permanganate to rapidly oxidize the sugar in a gummy bear
  • Jesse Mangiardi '15 and Mackenzie Schlosser '16 using a color-changing ammonia fountain to demonstrate gas laws and gas solubility
  • Jacques Bazile '16 and Sarah Briggs '16 use liquid oxygen to burn the sugar in a cookie