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Activities and Events

Chemical Supermodels

Using Molymod kits and pictorial instructions to build models of a wide variety of molecules, from simple gases to complex drug molecules involving tens of atoms.

Chemistry Careers Talk - Why Study Chemistry?

Students studying chemistry post-16 may not be fully aware of all the opportunities available to them when they complete their course. Some will have no clear idea of what to do next. Many believe that all chemists wear white coats and think that a degree in chemistry can only lead to a life in the lab. We can present a short talk, which shows students that this is not true; alerting them to the wide variety of career opportunities a chemistry degree opens up, both inside and outside the world of science. We can also include hints and tips about choosing an appropriate degree course and applying to university. We will allow plenty of time to answer questions at the end.

Colourful Chemistry - Demonstration Lecture

How have chemists brought colour to our lives? Why do chemists use colour to help them understand the world around them? What makes fireworks look so pretty? The answers to these and other burning questions will be answered in this exciting lecture, delivered by Dr Annie Hodgson from the University of York. Prepare to be amazed as colours change before your eyes, but don’t be surprised by the odd flash or bang along the way.

Discovering DNA and Molecules for Life

There are three parts to these activities, which can be delivered together or separately to create workshops of varying lengths. The activities involve model building, bracelets (“my name in genetic code”) and extracting DNA from kiwi fruit.
1) The most popular workshop takes about an hour and incorporates a lecture about the structure and function of DNA (fully illustrated). There is then a model-building workshop, led using a computer-animated version of the exercise. The model kits used are produced by Molymod. We build a sense strand of DNA (nine bases long) starting with nucleotides. By base-pairing we complete the molecule. We then use the anti-sense strand to make m-RNA and from that pick the three transfer RNA molecules required to bring in the three amino acids to build the tripeptide coded for by the gene. Each pair of students has a different sequence and were the sequences to be joined together it would produce the first part of the gene for the beta-strand of haemoglobin. This gene has been chosen, because quiet near the start is the position for the point mutation that leads to sickle cell anaemia.
2) A slightly longer (add about 15 min) version of the workshop has the activities above plus an exercise to make a bracelet in which the students each write their name in genetic code (the 4 bases being represented by 4 different colours of beads.) This is a bit of fun, it reinforces the message of the triplet code and the students are allowed to keep the bracelet.
3) The longest version of the workshop takes half a day and incorporates 1, 2 (if required) and a wet-lab exercise in which we extract DNA from kiwi fruit. This is incorporated into the other exercises in order to accommodate an incubation step. The workshop requires separate areas to do the dry exercises away from the wet benches (the kiwi exercise can get very messy).

Incredible Indigo

This workshop takes about half a day (but is best if it can be done with a lunch break half way through to allow the sample of indigo to dry). The practical is in two parts. In the first part there is a brief introduction to indigo and then we synthesise some indigo. In the second part we weigh the (hopefully) dry sample of indigo (to calculate the yield), before reducing it to its soluble form, which we use to tie-dye a piece of fabric and then watch it oxidise back to the dark blue form. The nice thing about this practical is that students get to keep the fabric as a reminder of the activity. As an extension activity, students can calculate the atom economy of the reaction.

Just a Minute

Blowing the tops off film canisters with sodium hydrogen carbonate (bicarbonate of soda), citric acid and water. This is great fun, but not for those with a nervous disposition! If it is dry weather, you can do this outside as it is rather messy, but it is fine indoors with care. The challenge is to work out how much of each of the ingredients is required to blow the lid off the film canister in exactly one minute.

Looking at Limonene

In this practical students extract limonene from citrus fruit using a distillation technique.

Sixth Form Chemistry Conference

This annual event comprises lectures and workshops to give students taking A-level chemistry (or equivalent) a taste of what it is like to study chemistry at university. The programme varies from year to year, but usually includes an opportunity to look at spectroscopy and to carry out a short practical in the teaching laboratories.

We regret that the 2021 conference has been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Details of the 2022 conference will be provided here in due course.

Spectroscopy in a Suitcase (SIAS) - Infrared

These infrared spectroscopy activities are designed for post-16 students and those aspiring to study chemistry beyond GCSE level. Note that these activities are only available at times when we can access the University of York’s chemistry teaching laboratory in order to be able to use the instruments.

As an alternative, schools may wish to book a Spectroscopy in a Suitcase (SIAS) kit from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC). The SIAS scheme provides equipment and resources to use in schools, enabling students to get hands-on experience of spectroscopic techniques. 

Formula 1 diagnostics

Infrared spectroscopy is routinely used to check the performance of and locate faults in Formula 1 racing cars. Students run IR spectra of fluids leaked from cars to identify where the faults might be, through pattern matching with sample spectra.

Festival drug testing

Those policing large music festivals use infrared spectroscopy to quickly identify substances that may potentially be illegal drugs. Run IR spectra of a range of white powders to identify them by pattern matching with sample spectra.

Drug purity

Infrared spectroscopy is used to check the purity of pharmaceutical products. Use IR to find out if the samples of aspirin or paracetamol you have synthesised are pure or contain contaminants.

What’s in the pot?

Traces of materials have been extracted from fragments of pot found at an archaeological site. Try to identify them by comparing their infrared spectra with those you run of drinks and foodstuffs that might have been stored in the pots.

The art of chemistry

Infrared spectroscopy is a non-destructive technique that can be used to help identify materials (such as paints, pigments and varnishes) used in fine works of art. This is useful to those restoring artworks, as well as those trying to spot fakes!

Spectroscopy in a Suitcase (SIAS) - Ultraviolet-visible

Light comes in a rainbow of colours and can tell us so much about the universe around us. Spectroscopy is a way to investigate these colours, revealing the chemistry happening in a test tube or in a galaxy far away. Using a portable Spectroscopy in a Suitcase kit, originally developed by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), participants can engage with a range of demonstrations to discover the properties visible and ultraviolet (UV) light.

For further details about SIAS you can look at the RSC Spectroscopy in a Suitcase website where there are some resource packs available to download. It is envisaged that more teaching materials will be added to the site, so if you produce any resources using the SIAS kit that you would like to share, please let us know.

Even more resources relating to SIAS are available from the RSC SpectraSchool website, and from there you can find information about many other fascinating areas of chemistry.

Sun Cream Investigations

This is an exercise in which students have to work out which of three sunscreens is the most effective. They have to design their own experiment using the eqiupment provided, which includes some UV photochromic beads that are white until exposed to UV light, when they change to one of five colours. The students can make a bracelet of UV sensitive beads to keep.

What has Chemistry ever done for us? - Talk

Who is responsible for a doubling of human life expectancy? Who has revolutionised Olympic and Paralympic sport? Who has enabled us to watch television on our mobile phones? Who can tell how old archaeological remains are? Who can predict what will happen to our planet in the future? The answer to all of these questions is chemists. Find out how, in this whistle-stop tour through the world of chemistry.


Cash and Chemicals

Cash and Chemicals Pic

Decisions involved in the design and development of a chemical plant to produce a chemical intermediate required by a new customer; improves student understanding of the working methods of science-based industry.






Catalysis Pic

Sponsored by the Institute of Applied Catalysis, this website provides an excellent overview of the use of catalysts in everyday industrial contexts, such as the manufacture of foods, fertilisers, painkillers, detergents and even how they can be used in pollution control.

Chemicals for Healthy Life: Emergency Care

Chemicals for Healthy Life: Emergency Care Pic

These activities explore the work of people who develop and test blends of PVC for use in medical equipment.






Chemicals for Healthy Life: Tablet Coating

Chemicals for Healthy Life: Tablet Coating Pic

Designed originally as a unit of GNVQ teaching, the materials contain a range of practical investigations that would be useful for students studying post-16 chemistry, applied science or pharmaceutical science courses.





Chemicals for Healthy Life: Vitamin C

Chemicals for Healthy Life: Vitamin C Pic

The activities in this resource allow students to examine science concepts applicable to the healthcare industries and the work of people in the sector.





Controlling Chemical Reactions

Controlling Chemical Reactions Pic

These activities enable students to see how and why chemical reactions are controlled in a chemical plant. The materials contain full teacher guidance, student notes and activity sheets.





Essential Chemical Industry

Essential Chemical Industry Pic

The new, fully revised Online Edition includes detailed information about the uses and manufacture of a wide range of chemicals. This book is used by teachers and students, various examination boards in the preparation of exam questions, and by the chemical industry to 'plug the gaps' in the knowledge and experience of new recruits.


Essential Plastics Industry

Essential Plastics Industry Pic

This book contains a wealth of information that cover topics such as the properties of polymers, uses of plastics, production processes, waste reduction, recycling and sustainable development.





Greener Industry

Greener Industry Pic

This web site includes information on many chemical industrial processes. It highlights the changes being made by the industry to reduce the environmental impact of manufacture and use.



Molecules Matter

Molecules Matter Pic

The role played by chemicals in modern life is the theme of this resource, designed to support science, general studies and citizenship. All resources, including lesson plans and a 6 minute video clip, may be freely downloaded from this site. It also includes a regulalry updated section with links to news articles on the topics covered.


Plastics: Guide to Workshop Practices

Plastics – Workshop Practices Pic

This booklet looks at working practices in industry and schools relating to thermoplastics and provides an introduction to basic techniques for schools and the more common processes found in industry.





Polymers: Physical Testing

Polymers: Physical Testing Pic

The activities described allow post-16 students students to gain experience and practice experimental technique in the testing of materials' physical properties.






Product Design: Pop Bottles

Product Design: Pop Bottles

These materials relate to the choice of materials and production processes involved in the manufacture of plastic bottles for carbonated drinks.





Product Design: Sleeping Bags

Product Design: Sleeping Bags

Students carry out an investigation of the design and manufacture of sleeping bags as a product analysis exercise to investigate the properties of polymers in relation to the design.





Product Design: Sport Shoes

Product Design: Sport Shoes

These activities deal with the different stages of market research, product design, selection of materials and manufacturing processes in the sports shoe industry.





Post-16 Picture
Cold Light Pic
DNA Spire Pic
NMR Post-16 Pic