I got my interview done!!!
My mom was digging around and she found one of my dad’s friend’s colleagues, and we emailed him for an interview. He, luckily, accepted! (My mom and I had tried emailing 4-5 other connections but they had all refused interviews because they didn’t know much about Lavoisier and they thought they couldn’t do it)
So today (Dec 6th) I drove to good ol’ Richmond, BC.
Driving to Richmond
The person I interviewed was a chemist named Dr. Eben Dy. He received his Masters degree in Chemistry in the Philippines, and Received his PhD at Osaka University in Applied Physics. He has worked the National Research Council of Canada, and is considered an official chemist. Here is his Linkedin (He gave it to me, I swear I didn’t stalk him) https://ca.linkedin.com/pub/eben-dy/1b/928/59
Here is the Question-and-Answer type of thing that I asked him (I wrote notes in point form and later made them into coherent sentences for the answers, by the way)
Eminent Interview Questions:
1: How much education/training have you received in the field of chemistry and how much did the thoughts you had towards chemistry change as you learned more and more? (Example: wasn’t interested at first, changed, etc.)
Mr. Dy was more inclined to physics in high school, but he still liked all of science. He thought it would be easier to find job in the field of chemistry, but jobs ended up being better in physics. Mr. Dy received his Masters in the Philippines, and his PhD in Osaka. He says his view of chemistry has broadened throughout the years, and he specializes in physical chemistry/chemical physics.
2: How significant was the introduction of chemical nomenclature to the world of chemistry? In other words, what would have happened if chemical nomenclature was never improved on by Lavoisier?
It was the foundation of chemistry; you could call it a building block of modern chemistry.
Me and Mr. Dy
Before Lavoisier, there wasn’t a quantitative side to chemistry. Everything was more touchy/feely. A lot of new things that were introduced have to do with Lavoisier. When you start learning Chemistry, just like classification in biology, where there are kingdoms, genus etc, Chemistry is kind of like that in the beginning, but then becomes more quantitative and definite, and Lavoisier’s work laid the foundation. To sum it up, science became more quantitative thanks to chemical nomenclature and the law of conservation of mass.
3: Why is the fact that water is a compound, not an element, important to chemistry?
Fuels and sugars are hydrocarbons, which you can burn. If you put them in air/heat them up, they create CO2 and water. In the combustion of hydrocarbons, (In the early days people used vegetable oil and whale fat to heat things and for lamps; they’re both hydrocarbons) it’s hard to understand what is happening during combustion without realizing that water is H2O.
4: Is the phlogiston theory taught in college/university, and if not/so, what are some reasons why this now-defunct theory is taught/not taught?
It is no longer taught in college, just touched in college for historical purpose to show Lavoisier’s work was important.
5: After Lavoisier disproved the phlogiston theory, what inventions and innovations were made with combustion?
Everything involving combustion was influenced by Lavoisier. A good example is the engine. In an engine, there are pistons and cylinders. The pistons move; they are in different positions. They are all connected to a crank shaft, like bicycle pedals (this is why you need to understand how combustion works) and the piston moves up and down because of combustion. Engineers know how much air/fuel is needed, how much work combustion will complete/do with each cycle. (This much fuel + this much air + burn = certain amount of energy)This is also all synchronized. Chemical bonds release energy that can be used to do work. This is fundamental to chemical thermodynamics.
6: If Lavoisier hadn’t died in the French Revolution, what other contributions might he made?
He would’ve accelerated the growth of chemistry and contributed a lot more; maybe things that people that did 50-100 years after. Lavoisier was the basis of chemistry, and the earlier the foundations, the faster the progress of technology.
7: How does the water splitting experiment using the battery really work? Why do both sides need to be connected for this experiment to work?
You need to complete the circuit; a battery has positive and negative sides, and the electrons flow one direction. The baking soda helps conduct the electricity. The reason the water in the oxygen-containing tube is because there was a redux reaction with the copper. It goes into electrochemistry and is complicated, but what pretty much happens is the electricity provides energy for copper ions to react with the water. Electricity used to drive certain reactions (this is called an electrochemical reaction). In electrolysis, the negative side sends electrons from the positive side, making the negative side have hydrogen ions and the positive side have oxygen ions.
Mr. Dy worked in fuel cells, which was the opposite of electrolysis, so he explained that concept to me as well; The hydrogen and oxygen gases, along with an acidic base (electrolysis used a basic base, Sodium Bicarbonate) and the O2 splits into 2O, and reacts with the acid; the protons (H2) react with the oxygen gas, producing energy and water
Hydrogen and oxygen gases are in higher energy states (there is a potential energy difference) while water is at lower energy state (lower potential energy state) and you apply energy to split water.
Just like in a dam where water falls and makes energy, to make the water go back up, you apply energy.
By the way, the energy from chemical bonds is called chemical potential. Also, a galvanic cell spontaneously reacts and generates electricity (fuel cell), while an electrolytic cell requires energy to be entered.
8: Without Marie-Anne translating works for Lavoisier (example: Henry Cavendish’s flammable air) would Lavoisier still have been able to make the contributions to the world of chemistry?
It takes several lifetimes for scientists to build up knowledge. Most progress happened in Europe, and it would be very hard to start from scratch. It was mostly one scientist building on the work of another scientist – disproving/proving theories and hypotheses. Without Marie-Anne, chemistry might not have progressed as fast as it did.
9: What other chemists were prominent during Lavoisier’s time?
He would’ve been the biggest/most prominent scientist in chemistry. In the very early days, chemistry wasn’t a science, it was alchemy. People had techniques (ceramics in Asia, etc.) but it wasn’t really a science in the sense because there was a superstitious aspect to it (lead into gold, etc.) . Lavoisier put things into black and white, and pushed science forward.
Mr. Dy could think of 1 scientist off the top of his head, who was Mendeleev (periodic table) – Lavoisier would’ve influenced him.
The basis of knowledge for chemistry was all mixed up; certain groups of know-hows with the knowledge of alchemy meant lots of misconceptions. As time passed, things got clearer.
10: What scientists have been influenced by Lavoisier or his works?
Every chemist, because he set the foundation for science; we study how matter changes, and that’s what chemistry is.
In conclusion, I think the interview was pretty successful, and I learned a lot of things, especially about fuel cells, and it was overall really interesting.
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