Chemistry events for schools Chemistry events for schools

For any general information about UEA events for schools, please contact  For chemistry events you can also contact us directly at

Spectroscopy in a Suitcase

The UEA School of Chemistry is a regional hub for the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Spectroscopy in a Suitcase Programme. Spectroscopy in a Suitcase is a project that aims to introduce hands-on spectroscopy to both GCSE and A-level students. The students are given a brief introduction to either Infrared (IR) or UV-Visible spectrometry, and undertake practical challenges which require them to use the research grade spectrometers provided – an experience which would typically require a visit to a university chemistry department. Workshops are delivered by specially trained postgraduate students from UEA, who provide a unique experience and can offer their perspectives on studying Chemistry or Pharmacy at university. The feedback received from these events is overwhelmingly positive, praising the demonstrators' delivery and the interesting activities.

Typically a SIAS workshop is between 1.5 and 2 hours in length, depending on the size of the group. The maximum group size we can accommodate is 30, however smaller groups gain a better overall experience. We are also open to giving workshops to multiple groups throughout a visit.

If you would like the Spectroscopy in a Suitcase team to come and host an event (fully funded and free to schools) at your school please register your interest via the Spectroscopy in a Suitcase webpage which can be found here and someone will get back to you ASAP. Please be aware that this is a very popular programme, so we cannot guarantee to meet every request – book early!

Bespoke Events

We are always interested to hear ideas for events that would be useful to you and have flexibility to offer bespoke events tailored to your requirements. Please get in touch if this is something you would like to know more about. Below is a list of guest lectures that our faculty can deliver at your school or college.

Why Study Chemistry? (UEA Chemistry Lecturer)

For many, chemistry is synonymous with the pharmaceutical industry, developing treatments for everything from colds to cancer. But everything we eat, see, touch and breathe is comprised of chemicals. Understanding chemistry means being able to explain the smells, tastes, colours and textures of all that we encounter. Developing stronger, lighter materials, flexible phones and renewable fuels are all example where chemistry is underpinning technologies that shape our lives. Studying chemistry means learning to find and critically evaluate information, process data, solve problems, work in groups, write reports and present talks, in summary the skills needed in every modern workplace.

What do Chemists do? (UEA Chemistry Lecturer)

Chemistry graduates find employment in a broad range of careers. As you’d expect some work in the manufacturing and pharmaceutical industry. Perhaps more surprisingly, the commercial sector is a major employer of chemistry graduates, where their numeracy, analytical and problem solving skills are highly regarded. Chemistry graduates are highly prized by the teaching profession. There is a hugely important role for journalists trained in chemistry to explain the benefits of science to the wider public. A high proportion of chemistry graduates study for higher degrees, training for positions in research and development or teaching at University. In short, there is very little that chemists do not do.

Light powered therapeutics (Dr Stephen Ashworth)

Light based therapies of different kinds have a long established history in medicine, in the treatment of conditions such as jaundice in babies and a number of skin conditions. We shall consider a class of therapeutic agents which are inactive in a biological system until activated by the absorption of light. If activated in or near malignant cells the toxic agents produced by the light energy may damage or destroy the malignant tissue: a procedure known as photodynamic therapy (PDT). We shall consider what properties contribute to an effective PDT agent and how some of these may be measured. These will be illustrated using examples of laser flash photoexitation and thermal lensing spectroscopy measurements on group of candidate photodynamic therapy agents to determine their photophysical properties.

Chemicals’R’us - what does an organic chemist do? Dr Sean P. Bew or Dr G. Richard Stephenson

This lecture will aim to outline the importance of organic chemistry in the 21st Century. It will exemplify recent developments and applications of modern organic chemistry using the isolation and identification of metabolites from natural sources (i.e. soil, sewage pipes, and the sea), their subsequent synthesis and modification on route to the development of new pharmaceutical agents and biologically active compounds. Examples of the types of drug classes discussed include the development of highly effective anticancer agents, the fight against MRSA and the current development / need for novel and effective classes of antibiotics.

Hands-on molecular model building and stereochemistry (Prof Andy Cammidge or another UEA Organic Chemistry lecturer)

Not a lecture as such but a hands-on session led by Andy Cammidge or colleagues. Molecules come to life and their true 3-dimensional form can be appreciated. The 3-dimensional arrangement of atoms in space is called “stereochemistry” and it fundamentally determines the properties of molecules, influencing reactivity and function. Simple changes (on paper) can have drastic changes to a molecule’s shape and function, changing a medicine into a poison for example, or a brittle polymer into mouldable plastic. The session will aim to show how chemists communicate these 3-dimensional structures on the 2D media of paper and screens, focusing on the construction and comparison of molecular models, with chirality as a theme.

Life without catalysis? (Prof Simon Lancaster)

What is catalysis? What role does it play in our lives? From dictating our biochemistry to facilitating our lifestyle, catalysis is truly ubiquitous. This presentation provides an illustrated introduction to catalysis using clickers to promote audience engagement.

Lighten up (Prof Steve Meech) 
Different organisms use light in many different ways. We sense light with our eyes, and this reaction is much studied. We are also sensitive to light for other reasons, including our biological clock. In other environments many creatures use light for signalling purposes and plants have evolved a number of light sensitive proteins which help them to harvest sunlight for photosynthesis. We will see how they achieve this.

Supramolecular Chemistry (Prof Simon Lancaster)
Much of chemistry appears preoccupied with making molecules, but what controls the physical properties of those molecules are the intermolecular interactions. Supramolecular chemistry is the art of controlling those interactions to design molecular architectures: from crystal structures to molecular machines. Clickers are used to further engage the audience in an interactive presentation.

The chemistry of metals in life: The good, the bad and the ugly. (Prof Nick Le Brun)
We’re all very familiar with the importance of metals in our everyday lives – their strength and electrical conductivity, in particular, mean that they’re used for all sorts of applications.  We are generally much less aware of the importance of metals – as metal ions – for all living organisms, including us!  Indeed, all of life is completely dependent on the special properties of metals such as iron and copper, which when bound to large molecules in our cells are able to catalyse reactions, such as respiration and photosynthesis (arguably the two most important reactions on the planet), that are essential for cells to grow and maintain themselves.

However, as well as enabling life, these metals are also potentially extremely toxic, because the very properties that make them essential also enable them to cause damage in cells – for example, leading to the formation of toxic oxidants if they are not carefully looked after.  Thus, cells/organisms must control precisely the concentration and form of metals to ensure that they occur only within specific concentration limits where and when they are needed. In this lecture, Prof Le Brun will describe the benefits and problems associated with the metals of life and explain the principles of how cells handle metal ions and how their beneficial properties are exploited.  They’ll also be stuff about blue blood and leeches.  Prof Le Brun, who is a leading researcher in the area (and winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Joseph Chatt Award in biological inorganic chemistry for 2018), will explain some of the research going on in his lab at UEA.

Studying proteins with spectroscopy. (Dr Tharin Blumenschein)
Proteins are large molecules which can have a variety of chemical properties, depending on the amino acids in the composition of each specific protein. This versatility makes proteins important in every chemical process in living organisms. A variety of spectroscopic techniques are used to study proteins. This talk will cover the basics of what proteins are chemically, and how they can be studied by UV/visible spectroscopy, fluorescence, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

Interested but not sure about the dates?

Although some events are number limited, we may be able to offer other dates if these prove popular. Please enquire about alternatives if this is the case.

Travel a problem?

We may be able to bring some events to your school or region rather than you coming to UEA. Please contact us if this option is of interest.