On Monday 26 June twelve Year 12 students from Outwood Grange Academy joined other sixth form students from across Yorkshire to see what chemistry would be like at university.
The day started with a welcome talk from Dr Nimesh Mistry, who introduced the students to the practicals they would be doing. He discussed with them the cutting edge research that some of the professors were conducting related to real life, including cancer research, drug testing and the origins of life. Our practical was organic synthesis – we were making paracetamol. We used a variety of different techniques and instruments that are used in research to make and then identify our product.
The students were shown around the undergraduate lab and were given new lab coats and safety goggles… the race was on to produce the most, and the purest, paracetamol! At the end of the day every student had made clean, white paracetamol, even though at one point some were bright pink! The students used a variety of techniques including infra-red spectrometers and thin-layer chromatography to identify the white powder they made, to prove it was, in fact, paracetamol.
After work in the lab was over we had a short tour of the department; we saw the NMR machine (which is like MRI but for molecules) and discussed why we might need to know the structure of molecules (so we can figure out how it works and then make sure that our bodies use the drug effectively, and as it was intended).
It was a highly successful and interesting trip for all involved, and we got to experience a little of what life would be like at university.