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C&EN Talks With Tattooed ‘Chemistry Ambassador’ Randa Roland

UC Santa Cruz lecturer’s tattoos help her pass along her passion for chemistry

by Craig Bettenhausen
January 19, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 3


Credit: Courtesy of Randa Roland
Credit: Courtesy of Randa Roland

A generation ago, a profusion of tattoos often indicated a dangerous person. But today, University of California, Santa Cruz, chemistry lecturer Randa E. Roland says her abundant ink makes her approachable. “I’m kind of the chemistry ambassador around town,” Roland says. Her prolific ink “opens up a lot of conversations about chemistry.”

It started a little more than five years ago, when Roland, now 44, realized that she could spell her name in element symbols. “So I started small, with my name spelled out on my lower back in boxes like those on a periodic table,” she says. “I would mention that in class, and the students would start looking at the periodic table. I’d get e-mails saying, ‘I can spell my name, too!’

“Then I waited a little bit and thought, ‘Y’know, I have other ideas …’ ”

To download a pdf of this article, visit http://cen.mag/chemtattoos.

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Photos: Courtesy of Randa Roland - Tattoos: Ron Nelson, Mission Street Tattoo, Santa Cruz, CA - Web Galley: Ty Finocchiaro / C&EN


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Lucas Liamson (January 19, 2015 12:02 PM)
You have a divalent nitrogen permanently tattooed on your arm.

Randa Roland (January 21, 2015 6:04 PM)
Thank you for your comment. The structures are not necessarily drawn in IUPAC standard form, and the lone pairs are implied rather than shown. This is a style choice, not a mistake, that also reflects many images available online.
James (August 5, 2015 11:28 AM)
A lack of lone pairs is not what makes this a divalent nitrogen.
Randa Roland (January 21, 2015 7:16 PM)
And my nitrogen is appropriately trivalent now. Thank you.
Rachel (January 26, 2015 8:36 PM)
How did she manage to spell out her name in elements? The only way this works is to include both her first and last name together (RaNdArOLaNd), but there aren't accompanying pictures. I myself have been obsessed with spelling out words using the elements, and this is a great tattoo idea!
Carolyn (January 30, 2015 10:11 AM)
I have many tattoos, however I do not have any chemistry ones. I think you may have inspired me to make the jump! Thank you Randa and to C and EN for showing off this neat body art science project. Tattoos are here to stay in our generation!
Trell (July 11, 2015 12:57 AM)
So I can be a chemical engineer and still have a sleeve on both arms

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