Student Video is Bang On

News | Posted on Thursday 4 January 2024

A video made by a third-year undergraduate chemistry student has proved a hit on YouTube, with over 53,000 views in the first month.

Screenshot of Helen Levesley presenting her YouTube Video

Helen Levesley, one of the Department of Chemistry’s BSc students, created the YouTube video as part of their final year research project. The project looked at effective ways of contextualising first-year undergraduate chemistry through the application of theoretical concepts in real life contexts. Helen sought advice from fellow students on a suitable eye-catching topic, and then filmed and edited a short 8-minute video that was uploaded to YouTube. Amazingly, within the first month, the video attracted over 53,000 views, with over 2,600 likes, and over 150 positive comments. 

This number of views for a chemistry video that discusses first year organic reaction mechanisms is a significant achievement. The video, called “How a Chemistry Student created ‘The Mother of Satan’: A Deadly Explosive (TATP)”, describes the synthesis and reactivity of triacetone triperoxide, one of the most powerful explosives.

Helen explains that “feedback from students indicated there was a particular interest in understanding why certain compounds, including peroxides, are highly unstable”. This feedback inspired the selection of peroxides in the starring role, with Markovnikov's rule, homolysis, radicals, electrophilic addition and regioselectivity, all being featured in the clip. Feedback from year 1 students, as well as comments published on YouTube, have shown that the clip explains some challenging aspects of organic mechanisms in a clear, engaging, and impactful way. Viewers from across the globe have appreciated how Helen described this ‘explosive’ topic sensitively and thoughtfully. 

The department offers a broad range of BSc projects to students, including those in chemical communication, which allows them to explore the most efficient and effective methods to teach chemistry. The opportunity for chemistry students to create educational YouTube videos is one way that they can develop valuable communication and digital literacy skills. 

Helen’s project supervisor at the University of York, Professor Andy Parsons said “a grounding in video production demonstrates a valuable skill set to prospective employers, and this project has enabled Helen to further develop a range of important employability skills.”

Watch the full YouTube video.