Outreach & Schools

Outreach & Schools

These activities are currently suspended due to Covid-19.

We offer a range of outreach and recruitment activities for schools. Please see the sections below for more details.

If you have a general enquiry about our undergraduate chemistry degree, or would like help or advice with a student project - for example running IR or NMR of samples - please email Dr Peter Henderson at p.henderson@abdn.ac.uk.

S6 lab days

We offer two sets of lab days for S6 Advanced Higher pupils. The days generally run from 09:30 to 15:00, and pupils do one experiment in the morning and a second after lunch. We try to be flexible with timing for schools who have a long journey. Experiments cover a large number of the practical and data skills required for the Advanced Higher course.

The days in September cover the synthesis of aspirin and synthesis of cyclohexene by the dehydration of cyclohexanol.

Days in November/December cover determinination of commercial aspirin tablets, and synthesis of benzoic acid by hydrolysis of ethyl benzoate.

Email invitations to schools are normally sent out either shortly before the start of the summer holidays, or at the very start of the new academic year. If you do not receive an invitation (we know school contacts often change) or would like further information please contact our Recruitment Team who deal with the bookings: ukteam@abdn.ac.uk


Spectroscopy in a Suitcase

The RSC's Spectroscopy in a Suitcase is available free of charge to schools.

Schools can request a visit and a memeber of the Chemsitry department staff who will go out to the school to deliver a workshop on areas of spectroscopy covering UV-vis, IR, and NMR. UV-vis and IR spectrometers will be available to use for the workshop and/or for project students who have samples to measure.

Workshops normally last for a double period, although we aim to be flexible based on a school's requirements and staff availability. Please let us know if you would like us to focus on a particular aspect of spectroscopy.

To book a visit please complete the Spectroscopy in a Suitcase booking form.

Talks, workshops & visits

We offer talks on a number of contemporary topics which can help relate key developments in Chemistry to the school curriculum. Talks will also highlight career options for chemists. Whilst we can host a school on campus, we would much prefer to come and visit your school! We can tailor talks to different year groups.

Talks would normally be expected to last for a single period (~40 minues) but can be longer, for example to include a larger class discussion about the topic or studying chemistry. We're happy to discuss this with you. Talks can take place in either a classroom or a larger assembly hall/lecture space, depending on your class size and timetabling requirements.

The flashes and bangs presentation would require either a classroom with a fume cupboard or a large hall where the smoke detectors can be disabled for an hour.

Green Chemistry: what is it and why is it important?

Chemistry often gets a bad reputation because the public hear about incidents like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, plastic pollution in the oceans and climate change. However, industrial chemistry is reinventing itself by following the principles of green chemistry in order to lessen environmental impact. This talk covers the concept of green chemistry including the role of catalysts (and penguins) in cleaning up the chemical industry. Time permitting, we can also discuss some ‘big picture topics’ such as moving away from fossil fuels, what to do with carbon dioxide emissions and what is fracking.

Target Audience: S4-S6, tailored to age group

National 5 Links: Rate of reactions, catalysts, carbon chemistry, fuels, plastics

Higher Links: Industrial processes, energy requirements, yield, atom economy, reaction pathways

Advanced Higher Links: Transition metals, heterogeneous & homogeneous catalysis, organic synthesis

Chemistry in your medicine cabinet: ibuprofen and paracetamol

This interactive talk explores the chemistry behind two commonly used medicines: ibuprofen and paracetamol. We will discuss how paracetamol is made, analysed, and how ibuprofen selectively interacts with targeted proteins in the body to reduce temperature or treat aches and pain.

Target Audience: S5-S6, tailored to age group

Higher Links: Structure and bonding, systematic carbon chemistry, carboxylic acids, proteins, equilibria, chemical analysis, common chemical apparatus

Advanced Higher Links: Stereochemistry, organic synthesis, reaction mechanisms, experimental determination of structure, pharmaceutical chemistry

Cementing our Future: how can Chemistry create sustainable buildings and bridges?

Cement and concrete are important materials for construction, but have you ever considered why? Did you know that cement has a social and environmental dark side? The manufacture of cement produces lots of carbon dioxide. So, are there any alternatives? Could we find a way to use waste materials in construction?

Target Audience: S5-S6, tailored to age group

Links to Syllabus: Acids & bases, materials, inorganic chemistry, environmental impact of industrial processes

Extreme Drug Discovery

Organisms from extreme environments seem to produce the best drugs. Why is this? In this talk, we will explore extreme environments from the deepest ocean trenches to the driest deserts and explain why they are such excellent sources of chemical diversity and possible new drugs!

Target Audience: S4-S6, tailored to age group

Links to Syllabus: Molecular structure, structure determination, stereochemistry, functional groups, synthesis, pharmaceutical chemistry

Energy, batteries & carbon capture

Renewable sources of energy and the environmental impact of current energy sources are two of the major issues facing both scientists and the general population today. This talk will introduce these topics and discuss some possible solutions, including research currently being carried out by Chemists at the University.

Target Audience: S4-S6, tailored to age group

Links to Syllabus: Transition metals, thermodynamics, redox, chemical energy, environmental impact, green energy

Making new bones

This talk is on current department research on biomaterials. Inorganic materials are synthesised and characterised for use as bone replacement implants or scaffolds and as bone cements. This involves collaboration between Chemists and Medical Scientists.

Target Audience: S5-S6, tailored to age group

Links to Syllabus: Materials and properties, inorganic chemistry, chemistry in society

Polymers: properties, problems & possibilities

This workshop will introduce polymers, their basic structure and properties. A demonstration of the ‘nylon rope trick’ will show how polymers can be synthesised. The problem of pollution and microplastics will be discussed along with biopolymers. Pupils will then have the opportunity to make alginate worms and a PVA cross-linked bouncy ball. A more advanced version of the talk can include identifying different polymers using IR spectroscopy.

Target Audience: S1-S5, tailored to age group

Links to Syllabus: chemical reactions, properties of materials, hydrocarbons, recycling

Flashes and bangs demonstrations

A collection of very visual and exciting experiments which are designed to get school pupils excited and curious about Chemistry. Experiments include fascinating colour changes, making a foam, rapid redox reactions, combustion of sugar, homemade fireworks and balloon explosions. In order to host, a school must have a space where smoke detectors/fire alarms can be isolated for the duration of the experiments.

Target Audience: S1-S2

Booking form

Please use the online booking form to request a school talk visit.
Salters' Festival of Chemistry

In June we host a Salters Festival of Chemistry in our labs. These days are arranged by the Salters Institute and are aimed at senior primary school pupils (P6 & P7) and junior secondary school pupils (S1 & S2). Further details can be found on the Salters website: https://www.saltersinstitute.co.uk/festivals/

The next event is on Tuesday 9th June 2020. To enter a team go to: https://www.saltersinstitute.co.uk/festivals/festival-entry/

Please contact Dr Alan McCue for more information about the Aberdeen event. a.mccue@abdn.ac.uk

Top of the Bench

We host the Royal Socienty of Chemistry's Top of the Bench competition on behalf of the Aberdeen and North Scotland Local Section. The Local Section tries to provide schools with travel costs for the lab-based competition held in the department.

Teams of 4 pupils compete at a local level and the winning team goes on to the national final.

We expect the next local heat will be in November 2020.