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Harry Potter’s Science meets the U of Nebraska-Lincoln

College Class with a Twist


Chemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln - The Harry Potter Approach 
Chemistry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln – The Harry Potter approach 
Photo credit: Dave Catchpole via photopin cc

There’s an unexpected undergraduate honors chemistry class being offered at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It is called a ‘Muggle’s Guide to Harry Potter’s Chemistry’ (CHEM 192H), and it explores the magical chemistry - “potions” - taught at the imaginary Hogwarts School (of book and movie fame). The twist to this course is that this serious subject incorporates a cultural aspect, which is meant to encourage more students to take chemistry. 

Starting in the spring of 2012, the Department of Chemistry scheduled the Harry Potter class, and it has taken off like Harry Potter on a broomstick. “Galloping gargoyles!” Alumni are likely wishing they could be transported back in time to take this popular class. (Something like that happened in the third Harry Potter book, the Prisoner of Azkaban).

A graduating senior mentioned the honors chemistry class on Unigo. He said, “I wasn't able to take it since I am graduating, but I heard from many people that it filled up right away. UNL tries to keep up with all the new things that are going on in the world and put them into classes that they teach to interest the students.”

An associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, Rebecca Y. Lai, is teaching the Harry Potter course, but her research is “comprised of both fundamental and applicational aspects of biosensor research.”
University of Nebraska Diploma Frame
University of Nebraska Diploma Frame
Silver Engraved Medallion in Onyx Silver
 with Red Suede and Black Mats

Professor Lai also taught a one-day presentation, “Chemistry: Harry Potter Style,” to kids and their families in June 2013 at the University, according to Rhonda Dunaway, MomsOfOmaha.com a site about “Tips From Moms on What to Do & Where to Go in the Omaha Area.” 

Topics included the chemistry of gold, food chemistry, plant science, disappearing ink, fireworks, and the invisibility effect.

Did Harry Potter actually graduate from Hogwarts and get his diploma? Would he use his potions knowledge in his future?  These factors are unknown to me, and not among the topics in the honors chemistry course, which include: chemistry of gold, the sorcerer's stone, and the elixir of life.

Students who have taken or are scheduled to take the Harry Potter honors course are probably feeling pretty lucky (remember the sixth book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Harry drank Felix Felicis, also called "Liquid Luck"). By the time graduation arrives, students will have built up many accomplishments and memories.

New connections and memories will be made when joining the Nebraska Alumni Association. We partner with the Nebraska Alumni Association, so all Huskers, be sure to check out your USA-made, custom diploma frames to showcase your diploma.

How about other students and alumni? What creative courses are taught where you attend or attended college?

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