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Durham University

Department of Chemistry

News / Twitter

Celebrate Science

(2 November 2012)

Celebrate Science is a well-established University Outreach and public engagement event with activities all over the city, but with a focus on the exhibition marquee on Palace Green. Running from Tuesday 30th October to Thursday 1st November 2012, this year proved to be bigger and better than ever with over 5500 visitors to the activities, an increase of 60% from last year. The chemistry activities in the main marquee were coordinated by one of our leading chemistry Outreach practitioners, Dr Robert Pal, who was ably assisted by PhD student Geri Rosser. Geri has recently been combining her PhD studies with her role as a University Science Teaching Consultant, working to inspire and educate local secondary school students about science.

The activities running in the Chemistry area included some aspects of the popular SlimeZone, Amazing Materials and Cryogenics demonstration kits, alongside a showcase for our 'Spectroscopy in a Suitcase' activity to provide some 'light entertainment'. Visitors of all ages were able to learn about, among other things, polymer chemistry, superconductivity, shape-memory metals, thermochromic materials, liquid crystal technology and the effect of light and temperature on ‘amazing’ materials. The interactions were ‘hands-on’ and involved discussions with our demonstrators about their areas of science expertise. A large number of staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students from the department were involved in the demonstrations over the three days, including Katie Finney, Hayley Lumb, Rachel Carr, Natalie Tatum, James Radcliffe, Alex Dudgeon, Alexandra Tyson, Liana Vella-Zarb, Matthew Tate, Romnik Thind, Lucy Wilson and Becky Edwards.

The Department’s own Malcolm Richardson and Aaron Brown spent a day in the marquee to showcase the ancient art of glassblowing. Visitors marvelled at their ability to manipulate this fragile and brittle material into the weird and wonderful glassware scientists need to carry out cutting-edge experiments. They were surrounded by an enthralled audience throughout the demonstrations.

On the final evening of the event, Prof Andy Beeby closed the show with ‘Fantastic Light!’, his very popular public demonstration lecture. He explained some of the amazing applications of light, from medical diagnostics to sorting your post, and showed how light can be harnessed as a source of electrical energy by constructing a solar cell using raspberry juice – a true example of kitchen worktop chemistry! 

Many thanks to Dr Jacquie Robson for this report. For more information see

Congratulations to all involved in a hugely successful event.