Schools' Lectures

Celebrating over 30 years of engaging with schools across the UK, Chemistry@HWU continues to offer a range of lectures aligned to your curriculum, delivered in your school and at no cost to you

These lectures will broaden S3-S6 (Y10-Y13) students’ appreciation of the wide-ranging applications of chemistry. We offer two types of lecture; topical that address specific topics in the chemistry curriculum delivered by a number of our academic staff and interdisciplinary that illustrate the interaction of chemistry with other STEM disciplines and are delivered by specific speakers.

Please note that we will accept only one booking per term from each school and we encourage you to talk to your colleagues and those in other local schools, especially in rural areas of the Highlands and Islands, before contacting us at the email address below!

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Topical Lectures

The Basics of Bonding — for S3-S5, Y10-Y12

Bonding plays an integral role in defining the structure, reactivity and properties of a substance. The basic types of bonding will be covered along with the reasons why certain elements favour specific types of bonding. We will then examine how the properties of materials are influenced by the type of bonding present.

Chirality in Chemistry —  for S5-S6, Y12-Y13

The term chiral is used to describe an object that has a non-identical mirror image. For example, gloves are chiral: the right glove and the left glove are mirror images of one another and yet are non-identical. You can’t put your left hand in a right-handed glove! Molecules can also be chiral. Often it is important to produce only one of the chiral forms because the molecules, despite being so similar, can have markedly different biological activities. Learn how chirality in chemistry influences our everyday lives.

Colour, Light and Vision — for S3-S6, Y10-Y13

Why is the sky blue? How does your mobile phone screen make colours? How does a green laser pointer work? Finding Nemo: why do anglerfish glow?

Colour is all around us. Light reflected from objects allows us to see colours. Even light itself can possess a colour, like the green laser pointer. White light from the sun passing through raindrops creates a rainbow with the spectrum of all colours. Nature creates beautiful colours in plants, e.g. green leaves, red roses and yellow sunflowers. Some creatures such as fireflies can even make their own light through a biochemical reaction.

Chemists develop paints in all colours and make sure that you can watch photos in all their bright colours on your mobile phone screen. Our eyes and our brain see and perceive colours. Sometimes our eyes get tricked and the colours are not the ones we think. Discover the answers to these questions in this engaging lecture.

The Shapes of Molecules — for S5-S6, Y12-Y13

Shape is crucial in rationalizing the way molecules exist (physical properties) and the way they react (chemical properties). How can we determine molecular shape? How can we understand molecular shape? How can we use shape to design molecules to do specific jobs, e.g. fight against disease? All these questions will be addressed.

Why Do Chemical Reactions Go? — for S5-S6, Y12-Y13

Underlying the millions of known chemical reactions are a few physical principles which determine whether they are able to go (thermodynamics) and, if so, how rapidly (kinetics). Ways in which these factors can be unravelled through modern experimental methods will be described, from the lowest pressures to the fastest lasers.

Interdisciplinary Lectures

Cars, Cats and the Environment! — for S3-S6, Y10-Y13

Cars are useful but are also a problem. They pollute the atmosphere. This talk tries to explain where smog comes from and its effect on people and the environment. Then we'll show how the catalytic converter is helping to clean up the internal combustion engine. This talk could include some demonstrations.

Magnetic Resonance – From Molecules to Medicine for S5-S6, Y12-Y13

Magnetic Resonance, originally a scientific curiosity, is now an invaluable tool for molecular structure determination in chemistry and biochemistry. In its guise as Magnetic Resonance Imaging, it has revolutionised the way that we diagnose and treat serious disease.

This talk traces the history of the technique, briefly describes how it works and how it is applied in chemical structural analysis. It goes on to discuss the significance of MRI in medical treatments. The message of this presentation is that the development of genuinely transformational methods in science and medicine often arise from the most fundamental studies on the nature of matter.

Stars 'r' Us! — for S3-S6, Y10-Y13

We are all made of star-stuff! Atoms made in stars combine in the depth of space to form molecules. These molecules play a controlling role in formation of new stars for without molecules we can't make small, long lived stars like our Sun. Nor would there be sufficient chemical complexity for life to be likely across the Universe. This journey explains how we observe molecules in space, how they are made and how we can investigate astrochemistry in the laboratory.

The Sun, the Earth and Global Warming! — for S3-S6, Y10-Y13

Global warming is a major threat to our environment. Or is it? This talk presents the scientific evidence in a logical manner that we need some global warming to make the Earth habitable but that too much, as we are perhaps beginning to observe, may make it uninhabitable. The mechanism of Global Warming will be explained and evidence from the geological record for the impact of Global Warming will be provided. Comparison with our planetary neighbours, Venus and Mars, will be made. The goal of this talk is to inform students sufficiently to appreciate the on-going discussion on Global Warming