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Deadline: March 28, 2011

General Guidelines for Sources and Evaluation Criteria

The topics and topic-specific guidelines listed below will give contestants ideas about the type of information to search for and include in their essay. This general introduction gives insight into what evaluators look for, and general sources of information useful for all topics.

In evaluating the essays, we look for

  • clear, concise, grammatically correct writing that condenses the important points of the topic into the 600 - 800 words allowed
  • accurate chemical explanations, with some chemical insight, without propaganda or political judgements
  • reputable sources used

Depending on the topic, contestants may find that science newsmagazines like Chemical and Engineering News or Scientific American or topic-specific websites (eg. Nobel, NASA), will present a good overview of the subject for a general understanding. Basic textbooks may also serve this purpose. However, students will do well to consult more advanced academic references such as reputable research journals to ensure that their information has scientific merit as currently understood by reputable scientists working in the field.

  1. Modern Allotropes of Carbon - their impact on nanotechnology

    This topic is concerned with the emerging field of materials chemistry and nanotechnology, specifically focusing on the modern allotropes of carbon, and the role they play in nanotechnological developments

    The essay might

    1. Deal with one specific allotrope or a family of allotropes
    2. Describe modern allotropes of carbon with respect to general structure and bonding, and physical and chemical properties
    3. Describe experiments carried out to synthesize them and understand their structure and reactivity
    4. Describe the nanotechnological applications of one (or various) modern allotropes of carbon
    5. Describe the benefits of this evolving technology to the community; the country; the world.
  2. Surface Action - what happens at a catalytic surface when a reaction occurs?

    This topic has a historical component, since the sub-discipline of physical chemistry has been used to study catalysis for some time. Students might trace the experimental evidence that led chemists to construct our current understanding of surface catalysis, and lead up to the description of modern methods used in studying molecular motion at catalytic surfaces. The essay should connect current methods with historical ones in an overview of the progression of science.

    The essay might

    1. Construct a timeline for historical experiments that led to our current understanding of the nature of surface catalysis
    2. Describe the currently accepted conception of the nature of surface catalysis
    3. Describe experiments being carried out today to push the frontiers of our understanding of surface catalysis
    4. Describe the benefits of this evolving understanding to the community; the country; the world.
  3. The Ozone Hole - can it be 'patched'?

    This topic deals with Environmental Chemistry, which is a cross-disciplinary field requiring knowledge and understanding in many different sub-disciplines (eg. physical chemistry, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, biochemistry...) For this essay, students will need to gain an understanding of the structure of the atmosphere, the role of the ozone layer, current theories of how it is being destroyed, and efforts aimed at repairing it. In addition to the general sources of information listed in the introduction above, provincial and federal agencies host websites that provide information about pollutant monitoring networks.

    The essay might

    1. Describe sources of atmospheric pollution that interfere with the ozone layer
    2. Describe experiments carried out to understand the effect of atmospheric pollutants on the ozone layer
    3. Describe the impacts of the destruction of the ozone layer on humans and ecosystems
    4. Describe the monitoring systems used by governments to measure ozone depletion
    5. Describe current efforts aimed at repairing the ozone hole
    6. Describe the benefits of this evolving understanding to the community; the country; the world.
  4. The Role of a Canadian Scientist in Developing a Vital Pharmaceutical

    This topic is directly relevant to the grade 11/12 science curriculum, and includes historical information as well as leading edge scientific work. It might contain brief biographical information on the individual(s) profiled, to the extent that such information sheds light on the scientific motivation of the individual(s). However, the main focus of the essay should be on the scientific contribution the individual has made, and how it has advanced the field in which the individual works. To identify potential subjects, students might search the web sites of research hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and pharmacy faculties at major Canadian universities in addition to the information sources listed in the introduction above.

    The essay might

    1. Describe the background of the researcher(s) involved in the breakthrough, to the extent that it sheds light on his/her/their scientific motivation
    2. Describe model(s) used in or developed for the research
    3. Describe how the research has lead to a better understanding (or better treatment) of the illness targeted
    4. Describe how the scientific contribution made by this individual has changed (is changing) the direction of scientific understanding and/or treatment of the illness
    5. Describe the benefits of this discovery to the community; the country; the world.

>> Essay Contest Entry Form

Format, Deadlines, Eligibility, Evaluations and Awards

See the previous year 2010 essay topics