The University of Leicester and the East Midlands Region are leading a national programme aimed at providing schools and colleges with hands-on access to state of the art scientific instrumentation in the study of chemistry.
This project has recently attracted the attention of Sigma-Aldrich, a major international chemical company, who have agreed to become partners in the project by pledging to supply a range of ancillary small equipment and any chemicals needed to ensure the success of this exciting programme.
As part of the HEFCE-funded project, Chemistry for our Future, a range of instrumentation costing in excess of £80,000 has recently been purchased exclusively for schools outreach events. This instrumentation includes infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR), time-of-flight mass spectrometry (TOF) and UV-Visible spectroscopy and, to complement this, a number of exciting hands-on experiments have been developed. The main plank of Spectroscopy in a Suitcase is sending trained postgraduate students into schools and colleges with portable instrumentation and tailored hands-on experiments designed to enrich the GCSE and AS/A2 curricula. These key instrumental techniques are being demonstrated through activities based around engaging and relevant themes that include atmospheric monitoring, flavours and fragrances, forensic analysis and medicinal chemistry quality control.
Importantly these visits complement schools spectroscopy days widely held within the universities themselves.
Sigma-Aldrich initially expressed interest in the project after a presentation given by Professor Paul Cullis at the RSC Chemical Education Group Meeting at the Salter’s Institute in February this year. Cari Davies for Sigma-Aldrich said: “The Company is delighted to have the opportunity to support the training and education of the next generation of UK chemists and is very keen to participate in these inspiring outreach activities. Spectroscopy is an exciting way to engage students in the subject and we are pleased to be able to provide equipment and chemicals to help in the delivery”.
Amongst other things, Sigma-Aldrich have so far supplied samples of key components of flavours and fragrances to be analysed by mass spectrometry, precision optical cells and automatic pipettes for analytical chemistry activities based around UV/Visible spectroscopy as well as NMR tubes and solvents to help with spectroscopy days throughout the six regions involved in the Chemistry for our Future Project, benefiting a total of 34 universities.
Tracy McGhie, who got the project on the road in the early summer, commented: “Teachers in the East Midlands region are very keen to make use of this equipment and see this as a fantastic way to inspire students and for them to have hands-on experience of modern analytical instrumentation.”