Western Regional Meeting Program

Breakout Sessions 1 and 2

Topic A: (repeated both times): Astrochemistry. What? Yes!

Tom Traeger, Duarte High School
Stephen Edberg, Retired (NASA JPL)


Astronomers and astrophysicists have, for decades, recognized chemistry plays in the across a zoo of common objects observed near and far in the universe. Giant molecular clouds are the birthplaces of stars and their planetary companions: complex molecules grow and may combine into dust that feeds the growth of stars. Stars are affected by the molecules, exotic and commonplace, in their atmospheres (really!) and some stars are the sources of dust over the courses of their lives. Molecules found in planetary atmospheres and on planetary surfaces may be the< telltales of biology in the Solar System and on exoplanets orbiting other stars.

In this session we will describe the astronomical methods used to observe molecules and infer the chemistry involved in their production. We will demonstrate how their interpretation yields scientific understanding of the processes in which they are involved. To wrap up the session, we will proceed to solar telescopes for first hand looks for a taste of the raw data (from the nearest star) and its interpretation.


Stephen J. Edberg is an active astronomical observer, photographer, and telescope maker. He recently retired from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory where he mixed facilitating
the science on robotic planetary exploration missions with communicating science to the public, teachers and students, and the media. He started his astronomical career doing research in solar physics at several US observatories. At JPL he served as a project Investigation Scientist on Ga ileo (to Jupiter), Cassini (to Saturn), Comet Rendezvous/ Asteroid Flyby, and also as System Scientist and Science Office Manager on the Space Interferometry Mission. He has been involved in robotic missions from the early in the design phase, coordinated competing science investigations during the planning stages, and has planned and prepared instruction sets for measurements executed by spacecraft in flight.

Tom Traeger is a high school science teacher at Duarte High School with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Geography and a Masters in Education degree in Education, both degrees being from UC Santa Barbara. He has taught science for a total of eighteen years. Tom taught science for sixteen years at La Canada High School, teaching the Geology, Earth Science, Physics, and AP Environmental Science offerings there. Since moving to Duarte High School, he has taught the AP Physics 1, Physics, Earth Science, and AP Environmental Science offerings. Tom also runs an Aviation, Space, and Drone program after school, where he involves students in aviation, space, and drone technology. In his free time, Tom enjoys spending as much time as possible with his family of four young children (the reason he moved to Duarte High School with it being only five minutes from home), building/flying model aircraft, private piloting full scale airplanes and gliders when time and money allow, doing sidewalk astronomy outreach events to school groups and the public, riding bicycles, playing tennis, and traveling with family during school breaks.

Topic B: (repeated both times): ACS Resources for Teaching Chemistry

Michael Morgan, Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet


The United States National Chemistry Olympiad represents a wealth of teaching resources for high school classrooms. Whether you use the olympiad or not you can find many practical applications of the laboratory exercises to augment inquiry learning in you AP Chemistry and Chemistry classes.


Michael Morgan is currently the Honors and Advanced Placement Chemistry teacher at Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School. He received his degree at UC Santa Cruz under the direction of Professor Frank C. Andrews . Since UCSC he has become heavily involved in the field of Chemical Education serving twice as a fellow of the Institute for Chemical Education at the University of Wisconsin working for Professor John W. Moore. For many years Mr. Morgan wrote a regular column entitled "Ideas From the Coast" for the now defunct journal "Connecting with Chemistry" and in 2015 he became a featured contributing author for the journal He has served as a member of the editorial board for the Journal of Chemical Education: Software. Over the past 25 years he has presented over 100 workshops, conferences, and lecture demonstration shows on topics ranging from "Chemistry in our Everyday Lives" to "Chemical Philately: A Perforated History of Chemistry." Since the early 1990's Mr. Morgan has been working with the ACS in a variety of activities. On the national level he serves on the advisory board for the ACS Chemistry Clubs program and is also a member of DIVCHED's "Pre-college Chemistry Committee". He currently plans and hosts the AACT's yearly "Update for Chemistry Teachers" meeting held at Occidental College. He serves on the SCALACS Executive Committee and has been Chair of the Southern California section. In the last three years he has served AACT as a Regional Representative, been a candidate for President, and presented workshops at the National level for AACT. Mr. Morgan has been the recipient of the Southern California ACS Teacher of the Year Award and has received the Western Regional Teacher of the Year Award.

Topic C: (repeated both times): Nano Tofu!

Deborah Bennett and Barbara Sitzman


Come join us for fun with links between nanotechnology and "Out of this World" Space technology. The audience will tie this together through hand-on activities. Information from ACS Education Outreach will be available.


Deborah Bennett received her bachelor's of science degree from Duke University in 1980 (Go Blue Devils!) and her doctorate from Louisiana State University (Love them tigers) in 1986. After graduation, she directed product development for Aida Grey Cosmetics. Nineteen years ago, she discovered her true passion in the science classroom. Dr. Bennett is currently serving as the Science Department Chairperson at Calabasas High School (no, she does not know the Kardashians). In 2013 she was honored with the Paul Shin Memorial Award for Excellence in Science Education. In that same year she was also award the Carl Gibbs Environmental award for her work in bringing Environmental Education to the Las Virgenes Unified School District. She has numerous publications including contributions to the AACT Connect and is a frequent contributor at the Occidental High School Chemistry Day. Dr. Bennett is responsible for maintaining the Facebook page of the Southern California Section of the American Chemical Society.

Barbara Sitzman, an ACS Fellow (2009) and National Board Certified Chemistry teacher retired from Los Angeles USD after teaching and serving as Chemical Safety Coordinator for over 40 years. Ms. Sitzman is active in ACS, named an ACS Fellow 2009 and serves as a Councilor for the Southern California Section and member of the ACS Project SEED Committee. Her service as Chair of the ACS SOCED SubA Committee and member of the ACS Board Presidential Committee on Education lead to the launching of the ACS American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT) and her position as the Inaugural Chair. She received the ACS Western Regional and Conant Awards in High School teaching and was named a Woodrow Wilson Fellow (Princeton University). Barbara has many publications and writes for ChemMatters magazine including the Teacher's Guide for "Mars vs Titan: A Showdown of Human Habitability", from the current (October/November 2018) issue.

Topic D: (repeated both times): Materials for Space Travel: Creating New Materials and Finding New Uses for current Materials

Chanda Storm


This session will focus on materials science applications for space travel. The chemistry of solids and functionality of new materials or determining new uses for current materials will be discussed. The challenges that need to be addressed and things to consider about the chemistry of the materials, sustainability and environmental impact will direct the new research. Combining engineering and chemistry is vital to increasing our space travel capabilities and overall increase in the knowledge of our galaxy and beyond.


Chanda Strom is a second career teacher. She earned my B.S. in Biochemistry at Cal. State Fullerton and a M.A. degree in Education. Chanda is intrigued by all things chemistry and teaches AP Chemistry and college prep chemistry at Gabrielino High School in San Gabriel, CA. She provides PD to her peers for school-wide professional development in many different education initiatives for our school.

Topic E: (repeated both times): In Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU) for Space Exploration.

Dr. Gerald Voecks


In order to efficiently explore space more fully than is currently being pursued, utilization of resources that are available in space to reduce the need for continuous supply or resupply from Earth is highly desirable. One of the most obvious examples is the need for oxygen (O2) to provide the oxidant required for launching return vehicles from planetary or lunar surfaces. Oxygen is also naturally a valuable commodity for human presence in space. To date, no demonstration of any chemical or biological process in space has taken place that would illustrate how successful or effective such operations would be implemented. That is until the Mars 2020 mission!

On Mars, the most readily available resource is the atmosphere which is ~ 95.9% carbon dioxide, CO2. Although the atmospheric pressure (typically ~4-7 torr) is much lower than on Earth (760 torr), there are several ways that the CO2 can be captured. Perhaps the most efficient way to produce O2 from CO2 is through electrolysis, a process that includes the dissociation of CO2 into CO and O, and electrochemical separation of the O atoms. A demonstration of a small unit to electrolyze CO2 on Mars will be sent on the Mars 2020 rover. This unit, called MOXIE and referred to as the "Oxygenator" in the movie 'The Martian', is unique in many ways. In order for it to undergo the rigors associated with launching and landing, it must prove to be able to operate completely unattended in the hostile environment on Mars. A mockup MOXIE unit, with some of the actual hardware, will be on display in the workshop.

In addition, once a demonstration of how to effectively produce O2 on Mars has been established, other chemical processes will naturally be in the que for producing other valuable products. When water, H2O, which has been widely detected on Mars, is also available, it can be co-fed with CO2 to the solid oxide electrolyzer. The result is the production of CO and hydrogen, H2, besides the production of O2. As is practiced in industries on Earth today, the production of CO and H2 can serve as the building blocks for producing hydrocarbons that are necessary for the production of any of the necessary fuels for launching return vehicles as well as plastics, commonly in use by humans today. Production and manufacturing processes, including 3D printing, will serve as a common means for utilizing the plastics that could be produced. The common technology is the solid oxide electrolyzer which will utilize the resources available on Mars to provide much of the useful materials that will support future robotic and human exploration in space. Come and learn about Chemistry In Space!


Dr. Gerald Voecksis currently a Technical Specialist at JPL in the Analytical Chemistry and Materials Development Group. He is a Co-Investigator on the MOXIE Mars 2020 Project and involved in several NASA In Situ Resource Utilization technology development tasks, including Microwave Water Recovery from Mars Regolith, Solid Oxide Electrolysis development and Materials for Gas Separation processes. Following a PostDoctoral Fellowship assignment prior to Viking Missions to Mars, he has been employed at JPL for over 40 years, interrupted by a 6 year role as Chief Scientist at the General Motors Fuel Cell Development Center in Honeoye Falls, NY. His many activities have involved catalyst development for rocket engine ignitors and for hydrogen production for fuel cells, regenerative fuel cell systems development, in situ sensors development for life support systems, and catalytic nonthermal plasma technology advancement. In his current flight experiment involvement, a solid oxide electrolyzer system, MOXIE, is being prepared for the Mars 2020 rover flight mission. He has a PhD in chemistry from Montana State University, a MA in chemistry from the University of South Dakota and a BSA in chemistry from Wayne State College in Nebraska.


The 2018 Western Region Meeting is a joint venture between
Southern California ACS Local Section,
California Los Padres ACS Local Section,
Western Region Board, and
American Chemical Society
All the above are 501(c)3 tax exempt organizations.