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Crystallisation Day 2023

Crystallisation Day 2023

A Chemistry Outreach Event

School kids get a taste of something a bit different to the conventional concept of Chemistry

With the new year, we wanted to put together an Outreach activity that would expose school kids to something a bit different from the conventional concept of Chemistry – i.e. a bunch of people in lab coats pouring steaming liquids into exotic pieces of glassware. Led by Sebastian Pike and David Walker (who manages the X-ray diffraction RTP), we thought about a well-rounded session that would include some actual time in the lab as well as some on-the-fly characterisation via X-ray (now possible thanks to the latest diffraction gizmo) – and, even some virtual reality!

The glue of such a session? Why, crystals, of course! The kids (30 of them, year 12, from the President Kennedy School in Coventry) had a great time in the teaching lab, (re-)crystallising some “mystery white powder” into some rather cool crystals they could have a look at under an optical microscope. After that, time to shed the lab coat for a trip into the X-ray room, where they unravelled the identity of the mysterious white compound (sucrose) via an actual diffraction experiment. To top things off, they even ventured into the forgotten depths of the G Block to play around with the crystal structure of sucrose using a Virtual Reality setup.

All in all, we daresay the entire thing went quite well – we got excellent feedback, and we are confident that we can perfect some elements of the session for the future (it turns out that 30 kids is a lot of kids to deal with at the same time!).

Crucially, none of this would have been possible without the help of a number of people: Stephen Brown and Tom Barnes (both PhD students in Seb’s research group), Ziad Fakhoury (PhD student in Gabriele’s research group), our lab team and particularly Raj for giving us access to the teaching labs and sorting out the preps, and Adam (who managed to arrange for some great pics to be taken during the day) as well. Thank you!