Senior finds magic in mixing and performing at-home experiments

Chemistry+is+a+passion+for+senior+Vishnu+Vasudev.+He+has+been+able+to+use+his+creativity+and+imagination+to+perform+experiments+with+limited+access+to+resources.

Erika Pernis

Chemistry is a passion for senior Vishnu Vasudev. He has been able to use his creativity and imagination to perform experiments with limited access to resources.

By Rachel Kim, Liberty High School - TX

From the age of five, magic has been an interest for senior Vishnu Vasudev. 

However, it was not the typical spells and charms seen in books and films or performances done by party magicians that captivated Vishnu, but instead the magical workings of chemical experiments and reactions. 

This fascination soon turned into more of a hobby when his dad began teaching and demonstrating past experiments that he had conducted as a child.

“What allowed that [interest] to develop into a passion for chemistry was the fact that my dad was able to encourage my hobby,” Vishnu said. “He wanted me to be able to experience the experiments he did as a kid, so he bought the chemicals he had access to as a kid and showed me a bunch of cool reactions.”

Whenever I do a reaction, and I feel it looks cool, I get really excited thinking about showing it to other people,”

— senior Vishnu Vasudev

For Vishnu’s father, Sujit Vasudev, teaching his son at home gives him an opportunity to help Vishnu learn and grow. 

“To me, learning starts at home, whether it is chemistry, exploration, or safety,” Sujit said. “I believe that the comfortable and accommodating environment at home makes for a great learning environment.” 

Because of his dad’s encouragement as well as the help of outside information from the internet and works of literature, Vishnu has been able to conduct his own science tricks.   

“Most of the experiments I do have come from me seeing cool reactions online or in books, and wanting to do them myself,” Vishnu said. “My favorite reactions [that I have done] are ones that seem like magic tricks, such as sudden color changes, especially if they go back and forth between multiple colors, and ‘cold’ fire, where pieces of paper look like they’re on fire, but are actually unharmed and not even hot.”

However, Vishnu would not have been able to create reactions that involved color changes or heat and light if it were not for his creativity and imagination. 

“Because a lot of chemicals can’t be purchased by people who aren’t professionals these days, I’ve had to make a lot of substitutions and modifications to reactions,” Vishnu said. “A lot of the chemistry I do is about doing some cool reaction I read about with the chemicals I have. While it would definitely be cool to have access to any chemical I wanted, this restriction has taught me a lot about chemistry, because I’ve had to think about how to modify reactions.” 

By finding various ways to perform such experiments and reactions, Vishnu has been able to share the inner workings of his chemical mixtures with those around him. 

“Whenever I do a reaction, and I feel it looks cool, I get really excited thinking about showing it to other people,” Vishnu said. “So, when it actually starts looking cool, I’m always screaming for my parents or brother to hurry up and come watch it before the reaction is over.”

Despite the joy and excitement that he experiences when carrying out chemical reactions, Vishnu has undergone various mishaps and has learned about the importance of taking safety measures. 

“Usually what happens is some mixture of liquids I’m heating suddenly begin to boil over because my beaker wasn’t big enough, so I have to act fast before it drips onto the floor, or something catches on fire,” Vishnu said. “That is why, I take a variety of precautions.”

Through everything that he has learned from taking safety precautions to creating modifications of chemicals to conducting reactions, Vishnu has been able to apply his skills and knowledge to the classroom.

Senior Vishnu Vasudev has found the knowledge he’s learned through his experiments has led him to be successful in the classroom. For science teacher Chris Ham, it’s important that he stays curious. (Erika Pernis)

“I think the biggest impact is that [my experiments] have made me passionate, so I come to class not to study and receive good grades, but to learn,” Vishnu said. “Also, I feel that it makes class easier when I already know the content and makes me interested in the details.”  

Hearing about Vishnu’s experiments and seeing him in the classroom, science teacher Chris Ham is encouraging and challenging Vishnu to keep exploring. 

“[Because] Vishnu is a curious person and wants to explore the world through his experimentation, I think it is important for a teacher to let [his] curiosity thrive,” Ham said. “So, my ultimate goal is to enable his curiosity and let him try different things and give him the opportunity to do that.”

That interest and curiosity has led Vishnu to explore different paths including the kitchen and beyond.

“I like chemistry because it applies to a lot of my life as I like to bake and cook as well as garden, and the knowledge I gained from chemistry helps me engage in those hobbies better,” Vishnu said. “[Furthermore], chemistry is what got me interested in experimentation, so I’ve found myself interested in bioengineering research.”

This story was originally published on Wingspan on November 18, 2022.