Chemists Experiment at the University of Southampton
Recently, our Lower Sixth Chemists visited the University of Southampton to attend a Twilight Session.
The pupils enjoyed a few hours of advanced chemistry courtesy of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
During the session, pupils worked under the supervision of PhD students and conducted several experiments to extract a natural compound called Trimyristin from the spice, nutmeg. Trimyristin is an additive in cosmetics and various other products applied to the skin.
Lower Sixth pupil Francesca Plaskett explains, “It was very interesting to see how the process of compound extraction has applications in the real world. For me, the most fascinating part of the day was creating a vacuum to filter during one of the stages. It increased the rate of filtration and led to a dry residue I had not seen before.”
Pupils conducted solvent extraction, gravity filtration and rotary evaporation to isolate the mixture of compounds. Using a guidance sheet, they continued to purify the compound with crystallisation and vacuum filtration. This process involved a number of techniques that are relevant to the A Level syllabus pupils are currently studying in Organic Chemistry. Finally, pupils analysed their compound using Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC), melting point determination and infrared (IR) spectroscopy, with many ending up with impressive results.
Lower Sixth pupil Kristen Chan said, “The visit gave us the chance to gain insight into degree-level science at a Russell Group University, whilst using equipment that would otherwise not be available to me. Not only did the visit have huge relevance to the A Level syllabus, but we gained valuable skills from the course that will be of use to us in our future studies.”
Francesca concludes, “This trip was extremely enjoyable and the educational importance of performing this complex practical we need to know is invaluable. Looking to the future, it has certainly sparked intrigue into chemistry at a more advanced level amongst the budding chemists at Bede’s!”
Pupils had the opportunity to spend time with both chemistry students and an Admissions Tutor during their visit, enabling them to discuss the process of applying for a degree course. The trip proved to be a challenging, but hugely beneficial experience.