* Inaugural Y12 & 13 Joint Chemistry Summer School between the Schools of Chemistry at the University of Bristol and Trinity College Dublin

Sixteen year 12 students from schools and colleges in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Somerset spent a week immersed in a Chemistry School run jointly by the Schools of Chemistry at the University of Bristol and Trinity College Dublin.

The first half of the week was spent in Bristol where the students began on the Monday morning with some ice breaker activities (using the iodine clock reaction to time one minute and determining the acidity of lemon squash) and then synthesised paracetamol, comparing their products with real material extracted from tablets using IR spectroscopy.

Talks on bones, ancient and modern by Zoe Schnepp (Chemistry Graduate of the Y2005) and Dr. Alice Roberts (Lecturer in Anatomy and co-presenter of BBC’s Coast) concluded day one.

On Tuesday the students carried out a DNA extraction and a DNA polymerase reaction at Explore At-Bristol followed by talks on Alzheimer’s disease by Katy Chalmers and perfumes by Tim Harrison.

Wednesday morning was spent at AstraZeneca’s Avlon plant at Avonmouth where Dr Ian Patel showed the students both the product development and one of the production plants.

The group then flew to Dublin to begin the second half of the summer school. On arrival in Dublin on the Wednesday night the students were welcomed by Dr. David Grayson of Trinity College Dublin at a reception and then had an opportunity to explore Dublin.

On Thursday the students carried out an analysis of the level of hypochlorite in a range of common bleaches and found to our surprise that one brand sold in Ireland contained only trace levels despite labelling to the contrary! A visit to the Natural History Museum (Dead Zoo) followed in the late afternoon. Following a meal in a local restaurant students were entertained by a lecture demo ‘Gases in the Atmosphere’ by Dudley Shallcross and Tim Harrison.

Bleach Analysis

Students analyzing the level of hypochlorite in bleach

On Friday the students spent the morning extracting the two optical isomers of carvone from spearmint and caraway seeds (steam distillation, product isolation by solvent extraction and then removal of solvent by rotary evaporation) and analysed their products using IR spectroscopy and polarimetry. Pizza and a quiz rounded off the day together with the presentation of various prizes.

Carvone Extraction

Students extracting carvone by steam distillation.

A coach trip to the Wicklow mountains on Saturday allowed the students to see something of the beautiful Irish countryside before returning to Bristol on the Sunday.

Irish countryside Irish countryside

For their work during the week each student has qualified for the BA Silver Science Communicator’s Award. We would like to thank Dr Claire Twomey and the Centre for Synthesis and Chemical Biology (CSCB), Bristol ChemLabS and AimHigher for funding for the Summer School. The CSCB is a collaboration in the chemical sciences between University College Dublin (UCD), Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI). The UCD centre forms part of the UCD Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research.

The Summer School will be repeated next year at the beginning of July 2007, for more details contact Tim Harrison (t.g.harrison@bris.ac.uk)

Bristol-Dublin joint summer school

Group photo at Trinity College Dublin