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Popular chemistry fundraiser hits halfway point

Jan. 21, 2011

KALAMAZOO--A popular chemistry fundraiser at Western Michigan University has reached its halfway mark, garnering $65,000 for graduate-student assistance in the five years since it was launched.

Photo of WMU Elemental Chemistry Fund mural.The Elemental Chemistry Fund has sold sponsorships for 52 of the 118 elements displayed on a large mural of the periodic table in the first-floor lobby of the Chemistry Building.

Alumni, faculty, staff, friends of the department and local industries have purchased sponsorship rights for tiles of the elements included in the table--from $500 for regular elements to $10,000 for precious metals.

About $11,000 of what has been raised has been used to help chemistry graduate students dealing with personal and financial emergencies continue their education. One student was helped after her apartment was destroyed by fire and two others received aid to return to their home countries in Africa so they could attend the funerals of close relatives.

"It's very gratifying that it's taken off like this," says Dr. Michael Barcelona, professor of chemistry and a former chemistry department chair who helped develop the fund. "It's something we can do that provides long-term solidarity in the department."

The idea for the mural and the fund was formed in 2005, with the tiles being placed in the newly constructed Chemistry Building during its 2007 opening, says Sean Bashaw, the facility's building coordinator and the electronic shop supervisor for the chemistry department.

Artists Amy Baur and Brian Bolden of In Plain Site Art in Minneapolis produced the mural. Images including that of chemistry pioneer Madame Curie were chosen to accent the periodic table and recognize the strength, courage and persistence of scientists.

Bashaw notes that sponsorship of a tile is a way to support chemistry students, recognize a current or past member of the department or University, or even just have a little fun. In reference to Superman, for example, the element Krypton was purchased for "Clark Kent and Lois Lane."

For more information or to contribute to the Elemental Chemistry Fund, contact Sean Bashaw at sean.bashaw@wmich.edu or (269) 387-3845 or Dr. Michael Barcelona at michael.barcelona@wmich.edu or (269) 387-2837.

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Media contact: Jeanne Baron, (269) 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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