Once more into the distance

My distance learning modules are about to start. Modules – two of them this year – delivered via computer means fair and foul to an institution in China. Last year I delivered our sustainable chemistry module, this year I’m adding half a module on inorganic chemistry to the mix. Last year the module was delivered […]

Chemistry Festivities

After surviving the 2nd year practical exam at the beginning of last week, the end of the week brought our Salters’ festivals of chemistry. We do two, one is the standard festival with the Salters Challenge then one of our own devising, the second is for SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) students and we […]

Safety Compromises

Running a practical exam with several staff invigilating highlights, very clearly, the differences in approach to certain lab techniques. For a reaction heated to reflux, do we clamp the flask, the flask and the condenser, or the flask but with a second clamp loose around the condenser for a little stability? Are disposable nitrile gloves […]

(Im)practical Exams

On Monday and Tuesday next week our 2nd years will have their practical exam. This consists of 2 x 3 hour sessions, one in a computer lab carrying out data analysis and the other is in the lab carrying out a literature style prep. All of the techniques and methods should be familiar to the […]

Research Labs vs Teaching Labs

One of the biggest shocks for our students when they start projects is the difference between the highly scripted experiments in the undergraduate teaching laboratories and the research project lab. Like many other chemistry programmes, our students spend two years doing lab experiments following a lab script. Doing experiments that are pretty much proven to […]

What is the ‘Smell of Science’?

Two students have just walked into the building, probably not chemistry, physics, astrophysics or forensic science students. They were discussing the smell of the building and claimed it ‘smells like science’. I’m guessing I’m pretty much immune to the building’s normal odour, far more likely to pick up strongly scented deviations (yes I do want […]

A Stinky Colourful Chemical Mystery

I’m running an outreach activity and we’ll be making alginate worms. I was testing my sodium alginate solutions yesterday as they tend to go off a bit. Usually this is demonstrated by no longer forming beautiful worms or spheres on addition to calcium chloride solution but rather forming slime. I suspect the polymer chains are […]

Chemical Shortcuts

I was writing some lecture notes this morning when it occurred to me that I’d probably never told my students of some shortcuts that are really useful. I was trying to draw structures for a synthetic route towards paclitaxel…trying is the operative word unless you are aware of what a SMILES string is and the […]