Dr Anna Reynal, senior lecturer in chemistry at Teesside University, received support from our outreach fund to run a two-week international summer school on the chemistry of colour. She tells us about her experiences...
A two-week intensive summer school entitled “Colourful Chemistry” offered students from the UK and Spain an opportunity to get a taste of university life and explore the exciting chemistry of dyes and their applications.
The summer school, attended by a group of 23 students (13 from the UK and 10 from Spain), took place from 15-26 August 2016 in the teaching laboratories of the School of Chemistry at Newcastle University. The event was organised by members of staff (Dr Anna Reynal, Dr Elizabeth Gibson, Dr Fabio Cucinotta and Dr Cristina Navarro) and PhD students (Nathan Potts, Gareth Summers, Lingli Zeng, Yvonne Choo, Fiona Black, Nils Poldme, Benjamin Jarman and Marina Santana) from Teesside University and Newcastle University.
The summer school was aimed at Year 12 students (aged 16-17 years) about to begin their final year of school study and the activities included a range of lectures and hands-on practical classes in the undergraduate teaching laboratories. Students performed their own experiments and investigations, in order to foster interest towards research-oriented careers.
The research project of the summer school was divided into three parts. First, students prepared two different organic and inorganic dyes, obtaining practical skills in performing reactions while heating under reflux. The complexes were then characterised using spectroscopic (UV-visible, FT-IR and NMR) and electrochemical techniques. During the second week of the summer school, the students used the synthesised dyes in practical applications and devices such as dye-sensitised solar cells, light-emitting diodes, forensic chemistry and photocatalysis. The funding provided by the Royal Society of Chemistry was used to purchase the chemicals, small instrumentation and laboratory consumables.
These experiments enabled the students to be introduced to state-of-the-art research carried out in the fields of photovoltaics, photocatalysis, chemosensors, electrochromic devices and light emitting diodes. Each practical session was accompanied by a lecture in order to explain concepts related to absorption and emission of light, characterisation of organic molecules and coordination complexes. All these concepts are complementary to the A-level curriculum and expanded upon the students’ knowledge.
The final day of the summer school included a discussion session for the students to present their results. All the students were strongly involved in delivering the presentations and questioning their classmates.
The UK students came not only from the North East of England, but also from Scotland, Sussex, London, Suffolk, and Manchester amongst others, with support to find scholarships and bursaries from local councils to cover their travel and accommodation expenses provided.
The summer school also included social activities in the evenings and weekends with a gala dinner for all students and staff involved on the penultimate evening of the summer school.
Over 80% of the students rated the summer school as excellent or very good, including the lectures, laboratory experiments and leisure activities and there were many positive comments about being able to mix with other students from Spain and across the UK.
This summer school has already run for two consecutive years, and we hope to make this summer school an annual event.
Our Outreach Fund provides financial support to individuals and organisations in order to enable them to run chemistry-based events and activities for public audiences. Find out more and apply for a grant of up to £10,000 at rsc.li/outreach-fund
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