updated 10/21/2008 9:59:35 PM ET 2008-10-22T01:59:35

Dry-ice explosions on Clemson University's campus last week were mistaken for gunshots, resulting in a campus-wide alert and charges against two graduate students. But a professor said Tuesday the two were doing a legitimate chemistry experiment complete with safety gear.

"This was blown out of proportion by people who didn't know what gunshots sound like," said material sciences professor Gary Lickfield.

Michael James Seeber and Kyrylo Chernyshuk were charged this week with disturbing school, a misdemeanor. Both are 22-year-old engineering students studying material sciences.

The students put dry ice into one-liter bottles Oct. 14, creating explosions and loud bangs, police said. Witnesses who heard the noises reported gunshots, and the university warned people to stay inside. The message was recalled an hour later.

Lickfield said Tuesday the students were conducting their experiment outdoors as a precaution. He said the noise was more like a popping bag than a gunshot.

The students began cooperating with police as soon as they realized what happened, Lickfield said.

Seeber and Chernyshuk are hoping to have the charges dropped or to get into a program that would erase the charges from their records in exchange for community service, Lickfield said.

Seeber didn't immediately return a message and a phone listing for Chernyshuk could not be found.

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