Marshall University’s Department of Chemistry formed a large, human periodic table this morning on the basketball court of the Cam Henderson Center to commemorate the Year of the Periodic Table.

UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared this to be the International Year of the Periodic Table, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements by the Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev. UNESCO aims to celebrate the periodic table “as one of the most important and influential achievements in modern science reflecting the essence not only of chemistry, but also of physics, biology and other basic sciences disciplines,” according to its website. The American Chemical Society is sponsoring a contest as part of the celebration.

Dr. Michael Castellani, chair of Marshall’s chemistry department, participated with students simply because the periodic table is foundational to what they do.

The periodic table “organizes a huge amount of information in a simple graphic format,” he said. “For example, just by looking at the positions of sodium and chlorine, a chemist can know the formula of sodium chloride without having to memorize it.”

Fundamentally, he said, chemistry has two major thrusts: identifying, characterizing, and understanding materials found in nature, and making new materials.

“Every new material created by scientists, from medicines to alloys used in airplanes or cell phones, ultimately can trace its invention back to the principles present in the creation of the periodic table,” he said. “For aspiring chemists, understanding and being able to use the periodic table is highly important to their success.”

Originally from Jean Hardiman for Marshall University Communications.