Local chemist and TV personality receives public outreach award

August 19, 1999

NEW ORLEANS, La., Aug. 22-- Thomas Holme, chemistry professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and television personality of "Science Fun for Everyone," will receive the Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach from the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The award recognizes his outstanding efforts to increase public awareness of chemistry through TV appearances and other local and campus activities. Holme will receive the award during the ACS national meeting in New Orleans, August 22-26.

Combining education and entertainment in 90-second television features, Holme explores such chemistry subjects as "Slime Olympics" and "Amazing Milk Tricks." His "Science Fun for Everyone" segments air on WTMJ-TV, the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee, during "Live at 11" newscasts. Since 1995, Holme has reached an audience of more than 200,000 viewers and demonstrated dozens of experiments parents can do with their children.

"My appearances usually use materials people see every day and in a short time provide a glimpse into what makes things work," Holme explains. "I smile, laugh, joke, and otherwise act like a human while on camera-it makes the prevalence of science in our everyday, technology-laden existence seem less impersonal."

Holme has explained colloidal suspension with colorful displays in whole milk and demonstrated the principles of acid/base chemistry with invisible ink made from ExLax. In one of his more memorable TV appearances, Holme used an unusual analogy: the playoff game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in December. Freezing a raquetball with liquid nitrogen, Holme asked his on-air host, Jack Jones, to "simulate (Packer defenseman) Reggie White hitting (Tampa quarterback) Trent Differ." Using a hammer decorated in green and gold, the Packers' colors, Jones smashed the ball to bits.

Holme graduated from Loras College (Iowa) in 1983 with a B.S. in chemistry and physics and received his Ph.D. in chemistry from Rice University in 1987. Among his many honors, he recently received a Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where his research interests include borane transfer in biomolecular systems and silicosis in the workplace. Holme is also the Public Relations Chair for the ACS Division of Physical Chemistry.

He resides in Milwaukee with his wife and two children.
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The Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach, which consists of a crystal globe and $1,000, is given each year to someone who has made a major effort to communicate to the public how the chemical sciences improve the quality of life.

A nonprofit organization with a membership of nearly 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy, and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. ( http://www.acs.org )

American Chemical Society

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