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School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences

School students attend Chemistry taster day at Queen Mary

On 3 July, 90 students from schools in London, Kent and Hertfordshire attended a Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) sponsored taster day in chemistry at Queen Mary University of London.

Chemistry Talk

Talking from experience: Dr Lesley Howell (left) with former students Shahid Dharamsi and Rumintha Thavarajah and current student Nathan Long (right)

The morning session commenced with an interactive lecture ‘Chemistry is Kool!’ which was delivered by Dr Tippu Sheriff from the Department of Chemistry at Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences (SBCS). The lecture involved experiments with liquid nitrogen, cardice (solid carbon dioxide) and a demonstration of the explosive self-defence mechanism in the bombardier beetle. This was followed by a talk titled ‘Why study Chemistry?’, focussing on chemistry’s role as a central science. The talk showed that chemists play an essential role in our lives - from the time we wake up and brush our teeth, to our final meal at the end of a day.

There was also a focus on career opportunities that studying chemistry in higher education can lead to, from within science and research to careers outside of science such as in the financial sector, patent law and business. The morning culminated with ten-minute presentations by some current and former students of chemistry at Queen Mary that generated a lively Q&A session.

Chemistry student in lab

In the afternoon the students had experience of practical chemistry in the undergraduate teaching laboratory, undertaking flame tests, qualitative tests and paper chromatography to solve a murder mystery. The students also synthesised slime and tested its properties, made a cream and an ointment (which could be taken home) and extracted DNA from fruit.

The students experienced a fantastic and immersive day of chemistry at Queen Mary, and left with a specially made ruck sack with an image of Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev (1834-1907) to mark UNESCO’s celebration of the International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT) - It is 150 years since Mendeleev arranged the chemical elements in a systematic way based on their chemical properties.

A great day for chemistry

  • At the start of the day, approximately 50% of students said they had only an average or below average interest in chemistry
  • By the end of the taster day, over 90% of students expressed having an above average interest in chemistry
  • 42 students described their interest in chemistry as ‘excellent’, a 200% increase compared to the start of the taster day

Student Comments

“The day made me consider taking A-level chemistry.”

“As I have an interest in having a career in chemistry, I’ll definitely consider coming here.”


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