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Durham University

Department of Chemistry

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Chemistry Department hosts school pupils for a week

(5 April 2011)

Two Year 10 pupils from Framwellgate School in Durham had an exciting time in the Chemistry Department when they were placed here for their work experience week. Jack Strangward and James Milne joined a number of colleagues across the Chemistry Department and helped out with a number of activities. They performed to such a high standard that they received an 'acknowledgment' in a research paper for work carried out with one research group, and they assisted the Outreach team by demonstrating some chemistry for a group of Year 10 pupils from other schools who visited the department as part of the AimHigher scheme. Jack and James's reports about their week appear below:

"Lasers, goo, lightning and liquid nitrogen! These are just a few of the things I experienced on this brilliant and enjoyable week of excitement. On the first day we started with a tour around the chemistry department then we did a quick experiment with goo and polymers to help Dr Robson prepare for the Schools' Science Festival. We later started an experiment with Dr Beeby and visited the glass blowers; this was really cool and they used what looked like flamethrowers mounted on the desk. In the afternoon we created a spectrometer and started another experiment with a compound that changed colour with heat. On day two we repeated an experiment with the research group from the day before and continued the other, we then collected the results. We also used the NMR (nuclear magnetic resonance) machines. On Wednesday we went upstairs and worked with Oli Willis in the laser labs. We conducted an undergraduate experiment with lasers and mirrors and learned how oscilloscopes and lasers work.  On Thursday we worked with Dr Craig Robertson in the X-ray crystallography department; we used microscopes to select crystals and then found their structure using the X-ray diffractometer. On Friday we demonstrated a few experiments to a group of visitors with dry ice and completed our paperwork. We also saw Dr Verlet produce a bolt of lightning by using a really powerful laser. Overall it was a brilliant week and I would recommend it to anyone.
Jack Strangward, Year 10, Framwellgate School

"Work experience was a memorable week for me. Some people went to shops, primary schools and offices, but I got to go to the chemistry department. On the first day I got a tour of the department and then got to make goo and test it and other polymers with Dr Jacquie Robson. Then I helped and did experiments in the synthetic labs with Dr Beeby, this included testing an orange powder ,and doing light spectra tests on it as it changed colour under different thermal conditions, and helping Bob with experimental chemistry trying to make a special OLED which was an Iridium compound. I also got to find out about glass blowing and the different properties of different types of glass. To finish off the day we set up equipment for a science festival and tested it, and that was just the first day. On the second day, we started in the synthetic labs and finished the light spectra for the orange chemical and did thin layer chromatography (or TLC) and light spectra for chlorophyll and tested the effects of liquid nitrogen on stuff and made liquid carbon dioxide. We then found out that our experiment with Bob hadn't worked, which we discovered through nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR), where we learnt about superconductivity. But, nevertheless, we tried a new experiment to try and get the right results. On day three we went to the physical chemistry labs to work with Oli Willis, we set up and did a third year undergraduate experiment (faster than an undergraduate) and then look at Oli's experiment and optics set-up. We went to see Dr Jan's experiment (a laser that makes lightening!) but it wasn't on, but he did explain how oscilloscopes worked. On Thursday we went to X-ray Crystallography. We were shown around the lab by Dr Craig Robertson, and then we worked on the microscopes to pick ten 'good' crystals. After this we took 2000 X-ray pictures of one of them from different angles. From this we could work out the space group (how many fit into the smallest block) and the molecular structure. On the last day we went through the equipment back from the science show to test them and sort them back into boxes. We then gave a tour to other Year 10 students visiting from local schools and showed practical demonstrations. To end the week we got to see Dr Jan playing God, by making lightening from his laser, and changing the colour of it. It was a fantastic week, and I don't think anyone wouldn't want to go."
James Milne, Year 10, Framwellgate School