Colourful Chemistry Or Not

I have been reading about how colour vision deficiency (colour blindness) can cause issues for people. I was very interested in this article ( and several others about the difficulties in reading certain graphics and maps when red-blue colour scales are used. For example, temperature anomaly charts are often red-white-blue with red being hotter than […]

If I ran a lab course

Michael’s blog post on laboratory practicals (and a long day of manuscript revisions) got me thinking about laboratory practicals. I particularly liked the distinction between ‘science’ and ‘sciencing’ that he highlighted, the difference between theoretical science and the practice of science, or between lectures and labs.  In as much as I like any binary system, […]

Post Boxing Day Dreaming – integrating technology into the laboratory properly

I was contemplating purchasing an Amazon Echo this morning. Well I was working out what one was then thinking about what I would do with it, and I was reading some very entertaining reviews of the product that were simultaneously illuminating and distressing. Let me clarify that I haven’t bought one, and probably wont. Yet. […]

Undergraduate Projects (again!) This Time: MChem

I wrote back in May about final year projects, meaning BSc final year. It’s a nice aggregation of previous musings on the subject and therefor relevant to the brainfull of thoughts leaping from my fingers. For 2016/17 we have a new type of project: final year MChem projects. I’m yet to see assessment criteria […]

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 […]

Magic Week and Crystal Faeries

REPOST: This was first posted in December 2012 but seems appropriate to revisit now!   There is something special about the lab over the Christmas holidays. There are myths about experiments miraculously starting to work after many months of trying, things falling into place or suddenly making sense. Last Christmas I had the misfortune of […]

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 […]

Impractically Impossibly Imperfect

This is post 2 on laboratory practicals, sparked by discussion on Twitter of A-level science reforms to replace practical assessment with an endorsement. In post 1, I considered that the only way to assess practical work directly is to observe students doing practical work. In this post I’m aiming to consider the impact that prior […]

Practically Possibly Perfect

I believe I’m supposed to have an opinion on the changes to A-level science subjects with respect to practical work. I can’t muster up much enthusiasm for the debates, although I like what I saw late last week on Twitter when it was pointed out that Nobel Laureates don’t know very much about how practical […]