July 23, 2007
TCD Summer School brings together future scientists from Ireland and UK

Eleven students from a number of secondary schools in the Dublin area joined up with sixteen students from schools near Bristol, UK to immerse themselves in chemistry from July 9-13, 2007.

Trinity College Dublin and Bristol ChemLabS at the University of Bristol played host to the summer school, which saw the students checking the acidity of lemon squash, carrying out synthesis of benzocaine and extracting caffeine from tea, analyzing the oxidizing powers of various bleaches and comparing the hardness of Dublin and Meath water samples.

Students from Dublin and Bristol at TCD/Bristol ChemLabS summer school

Students from Dublin and Bristol attending TCD/Bristol ChemLabS Summer School

After the success of last years' pilot event, where UK students visited labs in TCD, the summer school was coordinated again by Professor David Grayson, CSCB and TCD School of Chemistry, together with Drs Noelle Scully and Serena Corr TCD, Professor Dudley Shallcross, Bristol ChemLabS Outreach Director and Mr Tim Harrison, School Teacher Fellow, Bristol ChemLabS.

Sponsored by the CSCB and by Bristol ChemLabS, the week-long summer school aimed to challenge students' perceptions of chemistry and capture their imaginations as well as giving them a real experience of practical chemistry at university. "Chemistry is at core a practical subject and this week gives students a chance to do a fairly intense programme of lab work as well as visit a university and find out about aspects of chemistry that are not necessarily on a school curriculum," said Tim Harrison.

UK students worked in Bristol labs and visited research and analytical laboratories at AstraZeneca before taking to the air and joining their Dublin counterparts at TCD for a dynamic programme of lab investigations, lectures and entertainment.

Photo of students from Ireland and UK at TCD Chemistry Summer School
Students extract carvone from spearmint leaves by steam distillation

"The various practicals have opened up my view of chemistry. There is a lot more to chemistry than I first anticipated. Every practical was different and this was great. The whole week has enabled me to become more confident and more open minded towards chemistry," commented Adam Plank, Blackwood Comprehensive.

Earlier in the week the Bristol group had been treated to an ever-popular "flash-bang" demonstration lecture on atmospheric gases. In a Dublin-based demonstration lecture, Chemistry that gets right up your nose, Tim Harrison introduced the chemistry behind the development of perfumes, how the perfume industry works and how best to use, buy and store perfumes. The audience had their powers of smell tested while learning how different isomers of perfumery compounds can have entirely different properties.

Students attending TCD Summer School

A team of students put their heads together at the quiz

The next day saw the students continuing this theme in the lab where they used steam distillation to extract the oxygenated monoterpenoid carvone from spearmint leaves and from caraway seeds - the oils contain different optical isomers of the molecule, which can be distinguished by smell and by polarimetry.

The programme ended on the Friday evening with a somewhat raucous but entertaining Quiz compèred by Dr Peter Boyle, TCD. The “Toilet Paper Team” were deserving winners, with a strong lead over the runners-up. Beethoven’s 5th Symphony was not composed by Mozart, however, and “http” does not stand for “help the thick postgrads”!

Mr Tim Harrison, Bristol ChemLabS with Dr Peter Boyle, TCD

Mr Tim Harrison, Bristol ChemLabS and Dr Peter Boyle, TCD

According to Professor Grayson, plans to expand this annual event to include students from other European Union countries are under active consideration.

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