* Bristol ChemLabS Schools' Laboratory Programme

Y12/13 Organic Chemistry Day


Bristol ChemLabS is making available its recently refurbished undergraduate teaching laboratories to groups of school students to support regional Chemistry teachers. The laboratories are the best of their type in the UK and amongst the very best teaching laboratories in the world.

This means opportunities for your students to study at a world-class university with world class facilities outside of undergraduate term time as well as on Wednesdays throughout the year.

The Organic Chemistry Day is one of several workshop days involving practical work designed by the Bristol ChemLabS School Teacher Fellow to meet current GCSE level specifications and with practical scripts written in appropriate language.

Target Students

A maximum of 50 AS/A-Level chemistry students per day. The group may be made up of more than one school. We would also consider requests for groups of top ability Y11 students to attend this workshop.


The number of teaching staff accompanying the student groups from each school should be what is considered appropriate by the local school rules, but there should be at least one teacher per group of up to 15 to 20 students.

It may be worth noting that several schools have reported that ‘A’ level chemistry uptake more than doubled where schools interacted with Bristol ChemLabS on a regular basis.

Expected Timings


9:30 - 9:45

Arrival and Welcome

9:45 - 10:00

Safety talk and fitting out with safety glasses and laboratory coats for those students who do not have appropriate ones of their own.

10:00 - 12:30

Organic Practical One–The Extraction of Caffeine from Tea Leaves (with a 15 min break for refreshments during this period)

12:30 - 13:15

Lunch break, with an optional short tour of the School of Chemistry (including research laboratories) in small groups

13:15 - 15:45

Organic Practical Two - The Oxidation of Butan-1-ol

15:45 - 16:00



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Health and Safety

Extremely Important! Students and accompanying staff will be expected to follow the School of Chemistry's rules for visiting school scientists on health and safety in the laboratories as well as the specific health and safety requirements of the experiments.

This information MUST be made available to all pupils and accompanying adults.

This information MUST be made available to all pupils and accompanying adults.
Failure to observe these rules will result in no admittance to the laboratories for students or accompanying staff.

Click for full Bristol ChemLabS Health and Safety Rules

safety sign - no ballet shoes!

photo by riot_jane

The general rules include

Failure to observe safety rules including inappropriate clothing will result in no admission to the laboratories either for students or accompanying teachers.

Bristol ChemLabS has a more than sufficient supply of lab coats and safety glasses available for students and accompanying staff.  However, if students or staff wish to bring their own that is fine. Lab coats and safety glasses must be worn at all times in the laboratory. Failure to do so will result in no admittance to the laboratory or removal from it.

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Outline of Visit

Practical 1: Solvent Extraction of Caffeine from Tea Leaves

Techniques to be met: weighing to a tared round bottomed flask, use of a heating mantle, suction (Buchner) filtration, separating funnels and solvent extraction, vacuum distillation, melting point apparatus and infrared spectroscopy.

Practical 2: Oxidation of Butan-1-ol to Butanoic acid (or Butanal)

Techniques to be met: weighing to a tared round bottomed flask, reflux, drying with anhydrous magnesium sulphate, distillation, wet analysis of functional group(s), infrared spectroscopy


1. Some techniques learnt in the morning session are used in the afternoon session, thus reinforcing learning and building confidence.

2. We are aware that this is a standard AS level practical and may be part of the current coursework assessment by OCR. Teachers may request that this is used as coursework.

3. Infrared spectroscopy will be introduced to those students who have yet to meet this analytical method.

The Experiments

These are tried and tested practicals that have been successfully run with school students on many occasions.

Groups of 10 to 12 students will each have a postgraduate chemist as a demonstrator. All postgraduates (and technicians) are CRB checked through the Science and Engineering Ambassadors (SEAs) Programme. It is hoped that Y12 students would take this opportunity to ask PGs about being university students. It is not often that school students will have the opportunity to work with young professional scientists at such close quarters.

Accompanying teachers may well wish to undertake the experiment themselves at the same time. This may be desirable especially if the chemistry teacher has not been in a university laboratory for some time or does not have a chemistry degree.

The experiments use techniques, solvents and equipment some of which may be familiar to very well equipped schools.  The concentrated practical session will lead to a high level of competence in their use and may well encourage further such use if available at the school.

Tour of the School of Chemistry

If the number of students present is below the maximum then a short tour of the School of Chemistry may be possible. This would allow students to appreciate that a university chemistry department is very different from a school one. The tour should add some extra ‘awe and wonder’ to the day as the research labs in the Synthetic Chemistry Building will be included


Drinks and biscuits are provided.
Students must provide their own lunch (to avoid complications due to dietary requirements).

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Please contact Sue Williams for details.

Careers Advice

Students with Special Needs

The teacher in charge of the visit is expected to notify the School of Chemistry in sufficient time if there are students with special needs so that appropriate risk assessments can be carried out.


Photography of the day's activities is welcomed. Teaching staff have found that images taken in the laboratory make good copy for school websites and newsletters. Images may be taken by School of Chemistry staff for our own websites, articles and other publications. Each school is requested to complete the consent form found at: http://www.chemlabs.bris.ac.uk/Documents/PhotoConsentForm.pdf and return it to Steve Croker by post or fax.

Arriving by Coach or Minibus.

There is no coach parking and very limited minibus parking (by prior booking chem_net@bristol.ac.uk). Coaches can drop off and collect students at a safe point opposite the entrance to Cantock's Close on Woodland Road.

A Map for the School of Chemistry, BS81TS. can be found by clicking here


Please contact The School Teacher Fellow for any queries at t.g.harrison@bristol.ac.uk


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