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University professionals teach science students

University professionals teach science students
Tracy McGhie and Stephanie Allpress.
Thursday 29th August 2013 by C. Freeman

A Level students took part in a ‘murder mystery’ science workshop where they used specialist equipment to analyse chemicals to discover ‘whodunnit”.

The project was led by Tracy McGhie, who is sponsored by the Royal Society of Chemistry. She, along with Stephanie Allpress from the University of Leicester, demonstrated the portable infra-red spectrometer.

Teacher Sarah Kemp said: ‘Tracy and Stephanie have set the session up so that we have got a number of unknown samples that have been found at the scene of a crime and we are trying to identify the different samples and work out if any of these were responsible for the death of the person at the scene. The students are working in small groups on four samples. We run chemicals through an infra-red spectra and it will tell you what functional groups it contains. This is their portable infra red spectra which costs about £15,000 but some of the larger analytical instruments such as Mass Spectrometers or NMR at the university can cost around half a million pounds.’

Tracy said: ‘We have tried to pitch the workshop so that it is relevant to the students’ A Level topics but it gives them an insight into the next level at university, so it is A Level plus a little bit extra for them to think about. I have found your students to be very on the ball, they have answered a lot of questions really well. In my introduction I asked them lots of questions and have been very impressed with some of the answers that they have given. They are all working well on the topic and getting the correct answers so that is great.’

Stephanie, who is working on her PhD and gets involved in this project as an ambassador, added: ‘I like the way that each group of students looks at things differently and the achievement they get, some want to do it on their own and others need a bit more help.‘

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