Tuesday 22 September 2020

Prof. Andrew Dove, University of Birmingham

“A Sustainable Future with Plastic”

Due to the environmental impact of their improper disposal, there is growing pressure to rethink our use of, and dependency on, plastics – especially single use plastics. Indeed, since the build-up of plastics in the ocean was highlighted by the BBC’s Blue Planet II in late 2017, there has been a backlash against their use with some even demanding the creation of a plastic-free world. While plastics pose undeniable environmental challenges, they also enhance our lives and contribute to global progress. Their lightweight nature, excellent barrier properties and ductility help reduce carbon emissions and food waste thus providing a potential net positive to the environment. This talk will discuss these concepts as well as focus on how Chemistry can help create a sustainable future with plastic through improved materials and chemical recycling.

Tuesday 22 September 2020

Elizabeth Driscoll, University of Birmingham.

“Battery Research”

Since the turn of the century, rechargeable batteries are found everywhere in day-to-day life: smart phones, laptops and (more recently) electric vehicles. The chemistry underpinning all these applications, makes use of Li-ion batteries. Although 30 years on from the initial design of this technology, the push for more efficient energy storage devices remains heavily in the spotlight for both consumer devices, transport and large-scale grid applications. The current challenges posed with increased interest and uptake, whilst lithium reserve poses future limitations, requires understanding the application’s requirements whilst mitigating the advancing climate crisis. In this talk I will cover how these batteries work using a Jenga to show the shuffling motioning, in addition to some key characteristics such as rate of charge and degradation, whilst relating the application back to electrochemical and redox potentials. The remainder of the lecture will then cover where research efforts are currently focusing, from high power applications for EV to Na-ion batteries, before concluding with the recycling efforts at the University.

Tuesday 29 September 2020

Dr John Snaith, University of Birmingham

“Discovering New Medicines: The Role Of The Chemist”

Chemistry is the cornerstone in the continuing search for new medicines. Since the efforts of William Henry Perkin to synthesise the antimalarial quinine in the mid nineteenth century, chemists have used their skills to prepare compounds for the treatment of disease. This talk will start with a brief review of the treatment of ailments through the ages, and from there go on to look at the work of Perkin which led others to the discovery of the sulphonamide antibiotics. The many roles played by chemists in the modern drug discovery process will be considered, looking at how chemical synthesis, natural product isolation, and genome data are used to generate promising compounds, and how these are developed into successful drugs.

Tuesday 3 November 2020

Professor Richard Tuckett, University of Birmingham

“The Climate Emergency:
What’s The Science And What Should We Do?”

No spin or soundbites here – it’s time to get to grips with the greenhouse effect, global warming, ozone depletion and climate change, and discover how such environmental issues influence United Kingdom and International Policy. Perhaps all may not be a simple as it seems. You will be made aware of the problems that face the planet. Rest assured, we are in good hands, our politicians are scientifically literate .

Richard Tuckett has just retired as Professor of Chemical Physics at the University of Birmingham, he now holds an Emeritus position. His research area is high resolution gas-phase spectroscopy and reaction dynamics, especially of molecular cations created by tunable vacuum-UV radiation from a synchrotron. Recent studies have centred on long-lived greenhouse gases, leading to a subsiduary interest in atmospheric chemistry, climate change and energy consumption. He has talked extensively on this subject throughout the UK. His views might seem controversial to some, others have said they are plain common-sense. You choose!

Tuesday 17 November 2020

Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff (University of Nottingham)

“The Elements Of Chemistry”

Sir Martyn Poliakoff is a Research Professor of Chemistry at the University of Nottingham where he teaches green chemistry. Originally an inorganic chemist, he has researched in many different areas and his published work involves more than 50 different elements. In recent years, Sir Martyn has become well known for his collaboration with videomaker Brady Haran, making the Periodic Table of Videos on YouTube, www.periodicvideos.com

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Dr Tom Smith, CarnDu Limited


“Remember, Remember the 5th of November ….” A pyrotechnical extravaganza of colour, light and sound, bangs, whistles, explosions and sparks. Or yet another quiet evening at home?

Tuesday 19 January 2021

Prof. Julie MacPherson, University of Warwick

“The Wonders of Element 6 Carbon”

In this talk the many different allotropes of carbon will be explored, two of which have been the subject of fairly recent Nobel Prizes (Graphene in 2010 and Fullerenes in 1996) from synthesis to applications. The use of materials such as carbon nanotubes, graphene and diamond goes hand in hand with some of the latest developments in science and (nano)technology which will also be showcased here.

Our speaker, Julie MacPherson works on the development of new electrochemical-based sensors (based on diamond, nanotubes, graphene and nanoparticles) for a variety of different applications in healthcare, pharmaceutical analysis and environmental science (often in collaboration with industry).

Tuesday 2 February 2021

Dr Mark S. D. Read, National Nuclear Laboratory

“Nuclear Energy: Modelling the Chemistry”

Dr Mark Read from the National Nuclear Laboratory will give an overview of Electricity Generation from Nuclear Energy and the fundamental links with the University of Birmingham’s Physics Department. A brief history of the UK Nuclear Industry will lead to the current climate and thoughts for the future as the UK Government commits to reducing CO2 emissions 80% by 2050 whilst electrifying our transportation.

This lecture will also explore the important role that chemistry has to play throughout the nuclear fuel cycle, from purifying UO2 and fabricating fuel pellets to reprocessing, recycling spent fuel and the safe immobilisation of High Level Waste. The second part will show how computational chemistry is employed to simulate the nuclear fuel crystal lattice and how the fuel performance and aging effects may be predicted. So for those that thought that Nuclear Energy was only in the realm of Physics and Engineering – Dr Read is here to dispel those and other myths!

Tuesday 9 March 2021

Dr Maryjane Tremayne, University of Birmingham

“A-Level Revision: Mathematics In Sixth Form Chemistry: Building Confidence”

Dr Maryjane Tremayne teaches on a number of undergraduate modules including thermodynamics, kinetics, computational chemistry, organic molecular materials and solid state techniques. She has also taught ‘mathematics for chemists’ for a number of years and has recently established a new online fundamental maths for chemists module involving a range of innovative approaches to e-assessment and feedback for students.

This presentation will focus on revising some of the key mathematical skills required for A-Level Chemistry. This will include skills and topics such as calculating and converting units, significant figures, decimal places, standard form, the Avogadro number, percentage yields, calculations using algebra, logarithmic functions, using and constructing graphs to determine chemical quantities, determining uncertainties and the Arrhenius expression.

A range of example questions will be shown, demonstrating the use of some of the key skills outlined above. The presentation will also include a brief illustration of how mathematical concepts such as trigonometry and calculus are key extensions to undergraduate chemistry.

Maryjane is a Lecturer in Physical and Structural Chemistry and has research interests in organic solid state chemistry, molecular crystallography, powder diffraction and evolutionary algorithms. She has published over 40 research papers in scientific journals and books, and solved over 50 molecular crystal structures from powder diffraction data following the development of new techniques for determination. She has given presentations around the world on both structure solution from powder diffraction data and the application of evolutionary algorithms to crystallography.

Tuesday 23 March 2021

Dr Peter Hoare, Newcastle University

“Advanced Level Revision: Transition Metal Chemistry And Aqueous Ions”

This online presentation will focus on revising some of the key properties and reactions of the Transition Metals as required for the majority of the current Advanced Level Chemistry specifications, e.g. electron arrangements, multiple oxidation states, redox reactions, formation of complex ions, aqueous ion chemistry and catalytic properties.

It will be an interactive presentation, with the audience using any device with an internet connection and a browser (e.g. PC, laptop, tablet, iPad, iPhone or Android) to answer questions about transition metals throughout the lecture using the OMBEA platform. Full details of how to access OMBEA will be provided in advance of the lecture. The questions are chosen to illustrate key points or student misconceptions, based on the speaker’s extensive experience of teaching and examining this topic over three decades

There will also be a few chemical demonstrations to illustrate key points about Transition Metal chemistry and a PDF of revision notes covering the whole topic will be provided in advance of the session.

Details of a useful online learning resource, developed by the speaker in collaboration with a worldwide research database, and peer-produced by end of Year 12 chemistry students for a summer Nuffield Research Placement Project, will also be provided.

The speaker, Dr Peter Hoare, is currently a STEM Outreach Officer in the SagE Faculty at Newcastle University, but prior to his appointment in 2009, was a chemistry teacher for 20 years in a high achieving Northumberland High School. He is also an A-level Chemistry marker, since 1995, for one of the major UK examining boards, for whom he currently marks an Advanced Level Paper.

Download a copy of Dr Peter Hoare’s Revision Notes Pamphlet:

Tuesday 25 May 2021

Dr Adrian Wright, Senior Admissions Tutor, School of Chemistry, University of Birmingham.

“University Applications – Writing Personal Statements and Preparing For Interviews”

Personal statements within UCAS applications are your opportunity to describe yourself, your passion for your subject and why you would make an excellent student.

Dr Wright will use his many years of experience to describe what makes a good personal statement and how to decide on what to include.

For those applying for courses with interview selection, he will also cover how to prepare for interviews and what interviewers are really looking for.

Dr Adrian Wright is the Senior Admissions Tutor and Reader in Inorganic Chemistry at the School of Chemistry, University of Birmingham. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He has over 10 years experience in University Admissions, both at subject level and across the University.

Tuesday 15 June 2021

Drs Maria Velasco, Mike Batham and Rob Janes. The Open University

“Magic Molecules: The Magic of Oxygen”

The Magic of Oxygen is all about the weird and wonderful properties of atoms and molecules, and one of the most important molecules is oxygen. You can expect a few flashes and bangs along the way as some explosive mixtures are conjured up as our presenters entertain you with a light-hearted look at the work of scientists such as Boyle, Newton and Priestley, and recreate some of their experiments in unusual ways.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Dr Adrian Wright, Senior Admissions Tutor, School of Chemistry, University of Birmingham.

“University Applications – Writing Personal Statements and Preparing For Interviews”

Personal statements within UCAS applications are your opportunity to describe yourself, your passion for your subject and why you would make an excellent student.

Dr Wright will use his many years of experience to describe what makes a good personal statement and how to decide on what to include.

For those applying for courses with interview selection, he will also cover how to prepare for interviews and what interviewers are really looking for.

Dr Adrian Wright is the Senior Admissions Tutor and Reader in Inorganic Chemistry at the School of Chemistry, University of Birmingham. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. He has over 10 years experience in University Admissions, both at subject level and across the University.

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Bob Worley, Chemistry Adviser with CLEAPSS

“Microscale Chemistry Practical Work For The New Normal: “Madam! Sir! Your Experiment Is Served!” (Chemistry On A Tray)”

Bob writes: I really didn’t want it to happen this way, but it has. The onset of the pandemic has required limited numbers of students in the laboratory to sit and face the front, socially distanced from the teacher, and many lessons not even in a laboratory. So how can they do Chemistry practical in such conditions? The microchemistry approach is extremely suited, with the idea of the activity printed on a tray with the chemicals and materials. Try adding citric acid and sodium carbonate from either end of a puddle of water on plastic, with an indicator added. Wait 4 minutes!

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Professor Rachel O’Reilly, University of Birmingham

“Redesigning the World of Plastics”

Polymers are all around us – in the food we eat, clothes we wear, and cars we drive. Hence, we are living in the age of polymers, and indeed polymers are the material of today’s society. But polymers are a 20th century concept – the first synthetic polymer, Bakelite, was prepared in 1907. Following this discovery, the low cost, durability, safety, and scalability of polymers have led to their ever-expanding development and use throughout society. However, this rapid and uncontrolled growth in polymer production has led to a polymers problem in today’s society. But why do we have a problem? Is there anything that we can do? In my lecture I will share with you some approaches polymer scientists have taken, which are inspired by Nature, to solve these problems.

Tuesday 9 November 2021

Professor Stephen T. Liddle, Head of Inorganic Chemistry and Co-Director of the Centre for Radiochemistry Research at the University of Manchester

“Uranium: The Bogeyman of the Periodic Table: A Case of Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde”

Nuclear. What an emotive word. For or against, we already have legacy issues from nuclear power and weapons and there’ll be more in the future. Most nuclear applications use uranium, so we will attempt to unpick this complex area and present some facts about uranium and the science that is done with it.

Steve is interested in developing the chemistry of main group and lanthanide and actinide complexes which challenge preconceived ideas about structure, bonding and reactivity.

Tuesday 23 November 2021

Dr Simon Cotton, University of Birmingham

“Drugs in Sport”

This is a highly topical subject particularly in Olympic Year and with the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022. An opportunity to get to grips with this important issue. What are they? What do they do? Do they have side-effects? How are they detected?

Simon Cotton is an Honorary Senior Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of Birmingham. He graduated from Imperial College London and continued there to obtain his doctorate in 1970. He taught for over 30 years in state and independent secondary schools. He has written seven books, four as sole author; the latest two are Every Molecule Tells A Story and (with Paul May) Molecules That Amaze Us. He has published extensively in the chemistry of the d- and f- block metals. He has been a major contributor to the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Chemistry in its element – Interactive Periodic Table and Chemistry in its element podcasts, and has written over 80 Molecule of the Month articles for the University of Bristol’s website. In 2005, he shared the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Schools Education Award, and in 2014 was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to Chemistry.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Dr Ray Plevey and Mrs Rosemary Plevey, University of Birmingham

“Chemical Magic”

The 45th Anniversary Presentation

Once more, the dynamic duo will cast their spells. See the magic for yourselves – be entertained and inspired.

The Chemist – an off-white coated figure in a hazy smelly laboratory . .

The image has been sanitised but the excitement of experimental work still exists. The mixing of chemicals in a controlled way to produce, predictably or sometimes unexpectedly, an almost unlimited range of materials or interesting effects from which Society may benefit never ceases to amaze. This light entertainment invites you to observe, predict what might happen next and then maybe explain – if not you can always ask your teacher.

Tuesday 18 January 2022

Dr June McCombie, University of Nottingham

“Astrochemistry – The Chemical Cosmos”

Over recent years astronomers have realised that chemistry plays a crucial role in controlling the evolutionary cycle where stars are formed from vast clouds of gas and dust, then age and then die either simply by cooling down or in the spectacular brilliance of an exploding star. With the help of chemists, they have created a new scientific discipline, astrochemistry, that seeks to understand the important role that chemistry has to play in our cosmos.

Astronomers use basically the same tools as chemical spectroscopists to look at stars linking spectrographs to their telescopes to measure the spectra of distant objects. Some objects, such as our Sun, produce relatively simple spectra showing the range of atoms present in the star. Other objects, such as low mass stars and “failed stars” or brown dwarfs, are so cool that their spectra is full of molecular fingerprints. However, in fact the spectra of all objects, as they grow older, become richer. We see evidence for the formation of molecules in the cooler parts of the stellar envelope. These molecules can be released from the stars into the interstellar medium only to be reduced to their constituent atoms by the harsh radiation environment to be found there. So, let us take a look at how astrochemists explore a chemically controlled cosmos using the tools of a chemist and an astronomer.

June McCombie is an Honorary Fellow at the University of Nottingham, where she has worked since 1989. In addition to her research interests (Astrophysical Chemistry and Molecular Spectroscopy) June’s professional activities encompass teaching and learning, public outreach, diversity and science communication. She has worked on a number of diversity projects in the STEM area for which she was awarded an MBE in 2013. She currently sits on Institute of Physics Council and is Chair of the Science and Technology Facilities Advisory Panel for Public Engagement.

Tuesday 15 March 2022

Professor Peter Fryer, University of Birmingham

“Chemical Engineering of Chocolate”

Peter Fryer will reveal the secrets of chocolate in this on-line lecture. Chocoholics beware – take care with the calories perhaps?

This talk is ideal for Year 12 students particularly as they start to think about courses for university that may involve applications of Chemistry beyond that shown in the courses.

Finally, we will look at how the ingenuity of chemists has led to mimicking biological processes to create, via the so-called bottom-up approach, functioning molecular systems that mimic enzymes, as well as act as information storage and logic devices, leading us to think about molecular computers by the integration of the top-down and bottom-up approaches.

And did you know that an Institution of Chemical Engineers Salary Survey reported that Chemical Engineers are the best paid group of engineers and have the potential to earn more than doctors, lawyers and accountants?

Tuesday 22 March 2022

Dr Peter Hoare, Newcastle University

“A Level Revision: Transition Metals and Associated Topics”

Dr Peter Hoare regularly gives revision sessions for WMCTC sixth form students. This year Peter is focusing on the Transitions Metals with its associated topics. Students attending this lecture will be expected to use online voting to give answers to questions – Peter then uses these to tailor his responses to the needs of the students. Peter is an experienced Advanced Level examiner for one of the major UK examining boards so his insights into approaches to questions will be of benefit to all.

Click to download “Voting Instructions” for the interactive lecture.
Click to download “Revision Notes Booklet“.