Student chemical societies play a varied role: some provide a social focus for their department, while others hold more formal events. Either is fine and most societies strike a happy medium by organising a combination of the two. However you decide to run your chemical society, the basic idea should be to get members of your department (students & staff) to meet socially and have fun.
- A Catchy Name
First of all you will need a good name for your society. Try to come up with something that is original and catchy, as this will grab people's attention. Some good examples are: The Alchemists', Fusion, Paradocs and NU:KEM.
- A Committee
Next you need to form a committee. Your committee members need to be enthusiastic and dedicated because running a chemical society can be hard work! Ideally, your committee will have about 10 members, however, don't worry about this too much as a lot of committees tend to be smaller. The main roles that need to be filled are: President, Secretary and Treasurer. You may also want to consider having year representatives and a staff member on the committee. There is more information about committees in the next section.
- Support From Your Chemistry Department
When setting up and running a chemical society it is important to have support from your department. It is helpful to know that the lecturers will let you go into their lectures or labs to advertise your events and that they will do some promotion on your behalf. They may even attend your events! Remember that they often have good links with local industry and may have useful ideas about how to raise sponsorship and how to network with local employers. Some of the healthiest societies are those that keep members of staff heavily involved.
- Support from your Students' Union
The Students' Union (SU) can provide support, although how much of a role the SU plays varies between universities. Some societies are run completely independently, while others are affiliated to the SU. Affiliation can provide advantages such as official recognition and financial support. They will also be able to advise you on what services you will be entitled to; such as photocopying, advertising and the booking of university venues. Your Students' Union will probably ask you to submit a formal proposal including a petition of support, normally comprising of about 50 signatures. You will have to prove that you can raise funding for your society and that you plan to hold a general meeting at which the constitution and aims of your society can be agreed.
- Further Advice
Talk to your department head or the person who oversees societies at the SU. Alternatively, contact Sarah Harrison at the RSC for further help and advice.
Hull University's ChemSoc, is the newest society in the network. After only five months at the helm, chairperson, Helen Aberdeen, is well experienced in the most effective ways of launching a new society…
"It all started with my enthusiastic, and possibly naïve, dream of bringing together chemistry students (both undergraduates and postgraduates). From here, with the support of academic members of staff, a meeting of interested postgraduates was arranged. During the discussion, a core of eight enthusiastic committee members emerged. 100 members were then recruited via announcements made in lectures. A free quiz/party night was then quickly arranged to boost recruitment and to promote the new society.
"So far we have held two major events, a quiz/party and a Christmas meal/disco. We tried to make both of these 'action-packed'. We staged competitions where students had to identify baby photos of academic staff, put on raffles (a good way to raise money - even with cheap and cheerful prizes) and offered students the opportunity to sit on Santa's lap. This has encouraged people to mingle and kept everyone entertained. Of course, the involvement of alcohol also helps. The eagerness of academic staff has made them truly departmental affairs. Advertising has been by posters, word-of-mouth, overheads in lectures and by committee members eating their lunch in reception, whilst harassing passers-by.
"As well as offering free room hire for both meetings and events, registering with the Students' Union has granted us funding. Affiliating with the RSC provided us with support through their web page and much needed advice at the Student Chemistry Society Conference (a must), and hopefully in the future some funding.
"Our next event will involve crawling three-legged around pubs in 70's gear. We are also organising an industrial trip, a fun guest speaker and various sporting events for the near future (possibly with industrial sponsorship). We also hope to set up a web page.
"The whole experience has been a learning curve and our next challenge will be to keep the society thriving in the coming years."
Contact and Further Information
Dr Sarah Hobbs MRSC
Member Networks Specialist
Royal Society of Chemistry, Thomas Graham House, Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 0WF
Tel: +44 (0) 1223 432283