Top 5 – Elements

May 15, 2020 | Top 5

Note: During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have the chance to learn a little more about our Louisiana Tech University Family: students, staff, alumni, faculty, and friends. We’ll call it Tech Top 5. Go to for more Top 5s. #TogetherApart

Dr. Marsha Cole

Dr. Marsha Cole shows her love of elementsDr. Marsha Cole is a lecturer of in the Chemistry Program in the College of Engineering and Science at Louisiana Tech. As an expert in cosmetics, drug delivery, and food chemistry, she spends a lot of time working with elements on the periodic table. So we asked her: What are your favorite elements? And why?

  1. Carbon: We’d all be dead without it. Ironically, the carbon content in our body is recycled CO2 from the atmosphere. You can find carbon in the world’s most useful materials, pencils, drugs, and most gorgeously — in diamonds. C why it’s my best friend??? (<– Chemistry joke!) Carbon makes the strongest, thinnest material in the world. It is literally the ashes from the sweat of stars and is the parent of neon, magnesium, and oxygen (nuclear fusion). Lastly, it is the most abundant element in the universe.
  2. Oxygen: We’d be dead without this one too. And, it makes things explode (I’m a fire sign – Leo – so I’m astrologically born to be a pyro). Oxygen is literally the party sign; wherever it is, a party is sure to happen. Every element loves it; it often reveals the desperation that some elements have in becoming stable. Wherever oxygen is, you will likely know because a little bit goes a long way, even during respiration. Oxygen is a chameleon taking on shades of blue, reds, pinks, and blacks whenever it combines with other elements. It is not a narcissist, however, because when it combines with itself, nothing happens. So much for a big egO (<– Chemistry joke! LOL!)
  3. Sulfur: Aside from its trademark — stink — it changes colors! As a gas it burns blue, but as a solid it is yellow. Get it wet and it is blood red. Also, its “stinky” is responsible from some of the flavor components that we do like to eat and that linger on the breath. It is the element that keeps vampires away. Lastly, my hair is curly because I have some sulfur-based amino acids in close proximity to each other.
  4. Iodine: It sublimes, or goes directly from a solid to a gas. AND I2 love iodine because IT CHANGES COLORS!!! Get it? I2 (<– Another Chemistry joke!) Anyways, solid iodine is the shade of gun metal black and it is shiny. When it is a gas, it is the most gorgeous shade of magenta purple (super pretty color for a cosmetic but definitely not a good idea). Get it wet and it is an orange-y brown. Iodine is also a disinfectant that used to have a place in pre-op surgery (yellow bellies anyone?), but with the rising number of surprise iodine allergies, not so much anymore. Iodine is critical for healthy thyroid function. But for me, iodine is the indicator I need to detect starch. Iodine solution + starch = blue solution! Blue banana, anyone?
  5. Bismuth: It has all the colors! If you every Google elemental bismuth, you will see that it radiates greens and pinks so it is natural that it speaks to me as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. As a cosmetic-ceur, it is obvious that I am into anything that would be found in cosmetics. Most would likely be familiar with it as Pepto Bismol since it helps smooth traffic from the rooter to the tooter, but it is also used in fire detection, magnets, paint, cancer treatment, fishing lures, and ammunition. So, if you ever needed to call the periodic table for help, Bismuth may be the one to request.