Nanotechnology, amino acids…and a genie emerging from a tea pot. Rohan Anand and Will Smith (Year 13) blog on Chemistry in Action at Warwick University

On Wednesday 8th November, 86 students from across the SES Chemistry Departments ventured out to the University of Warwick to attend the Chemistry in Action day. The day was packed full of inspiring talks from speakers from universities across the country.

The day started with a Nanotechnology talk by Jamie Gallagher from the University of Glasgow who talked to us about the origin of this field of science and how difficult it was to manipulate materials on the Nano scale. He then demonstrated this difficulty by getting two students to construct a Lego tower wearing thick oven gloves.

This was shortly followed by another excellent talk by Prof Mark Lorch of the University of Hull who taught us about the complexity of amino acids and how they work in the body.  He even went to the length of calculating the amount of eggs Spiderman would have to eat to be able produce his webbing made of protein!

Bringing the morning session to a close, Mike Batham and Rob James from the Open University presented an extravaganza of demonstrations.  From a genie emerging from a tea pot to an array of metallic ion flame tests, the demo showed off the magic of chemistry despite some slightly anticlimactic ‘explosions’ of gunpowder.

Kicking off the afternoon, Kate Hendry from the University of Bristol spoke about her experiences exploring the Arctic and Antarctic waters as a chemical oceanographer and paleoclimatologist. She talked about the changing nutrient composition in the different depths of the polar waters and their effects on life both in and out of the sea.

The grand finale of the day was a lecture on how elements got their names by Peter Wothers from the University of Cambridge, co-author of the famous and well-thumbed book ‘Why Chemical Reaction Happen’ as well as other fascinating scientific books.  He spoke about the connection between gods, planets and the names of the original seven known metals: Gold, Silver, Mercury, Lead, Iron, Tin and Copper. This talk was a crowd favourite, bringing the day to a close with the bang of ‘yellow powder’ which made everyone jump!

The day was an overall success, bringing chemistry to life and showing us the many different roads chemistry can take you down.  Thanks to Dr Jones, Mr Jones, Dr Smart, Dr Crookell, Mr Sekhar and Dr Webster for organising and accompanying us on this trip.


Rohan Anand and Will Smith (Year 13).