Chemistry news

Charlotte Levy wins 'Present around the world' competition

Charlotte Levy, PhD student in chemistry in the PoreXpert team and Plymouth chemistry graduate has won the regional finals of the 'Present around the world' (PATW) competition run by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), with a presentation on ‘The Science of Chocolate’. IET-PATW is open to engineering students and emerging industry professionals from 18-30. As one of the five regional winners (the others being from the regions of the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe-Middle East-Africa and South Asia), Charlotte will continue on to the global final in November.

More information on Charlotte's research

Plymouth chemistry graduate and PEGG PhD student Michael J Wilde has passed his PhD viva with minor corrections. His thesis developed methods to analyse bicyclic, petroleum-derived acids in oil process affected waters by multidimensional gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, and identified them using chemical conversions and mass spectral comparisons to a meticulously assembled mass spectral database. Supervised by Professor Steve Rowland and Dr C Anthony Lewis, he (co-) authored six peer-reviewed publications and gave highly acclaimed presentations at numerous national and international conferences. Mike is now a post-doc at University of Leicester working on development of breath analysis to progress non-invasive diagnosis of respiratory illnesses, using mass spectrometry. Publications: Google Scholar page.

PhD congratulations

SoGEES PhD student Bashdar Sadee has passed his viva with minor corrections. In his thesis he focussed on the identification and measurement of species of potentially toxic elements (e.g. arsenic) in dietary sources (rice, vegetables and fish) important to his home country, the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which funded his research. Instrumental techniques such as HPLC-ICP-MS featured highly in his studies. Bashdar developed a novel method of measuring ultra-trace levels of the highly toxic species of inorganic arsenic present in the DNA extracted from a range of home-grown food crops in order to help identify the risks associated with this element’s speciation in a staple diet and its effect on genetic material. During his PhD under the supervision of Professor Steve Hill and Dr Mike Foulkes he co-authored four papers, two published in peer reviewed journals and two submitted for publication.

School visitors use ‘Chemistry to Catch an Assassin’ in British Science Week

The Chemistry contribution to British Science Week in March this year was in the form of two workshops for GCSE level students delivered by our budding future science teachers from Stage 3 BSc Chemistry, Andre Roberts, Ben Harvey, Beth Noble, Ciaran Callaghan and Paul Hackett.

The visiting pupils played the role of forensic scientists and suspects in a bid to solve a foiled assassination attempt on the Mayor of Plymouth at Theatre Royal.  Using the chemistry of transitional metals to test the suspects for copper and aspirin (both of which had been linked to the criminal by witness statements) provoked lively and interesting discussion over metals and their properties. Ultimately this knowledge was then put to the test in order to identify the would-be assassin!

Student success at National Chemistry Competition

A trio of Cornish students has fought off tough competition from across Devon and Cornwall to reach the national finals of a prestigious chemistry competition. The Schools Analyst Competition is a national competition run by the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Analytical Division for first year 6th Form or equivalent.

In the regional heat held at the Centre for Chemical Sciences, Plymouth University in January, the team from Truro College (Chelsea Bryant, Morwenna Tamblyn and James Butters supported by reserve Nanbo Chen) triumphed and progress to the national final at Keele University in June. The accompanying teacher from Truro Colleges was Rosie Maguire, a chemistry graduate from Plymouth University, and the prizes were presented by Rob Clough, Chair of the Western Region of the Analytical Division.

Two of the winners of the Western Region heat proudly display the trophy

ChemSoc Movember 2015

For the last couple of years, ChemSoc has had a Movember to various extents- this year was no difference- we went all-out with a trophy (which we are going to engrave later) and a fundraiser event with entry fee, including charitable cupcakes -some skilfully cooked by Adele (Year 3 and masterful baker), and some less skilfully cooked by Paul (President of ChemSoc and good at burning things).

In total, we raised £33, which was donated to Movember foundation, which funds research into prostate and testicular cancer- plus, it was an excuse to spend a month with a stupid moustache …

After the Movember business, we organised teams and ran a scavenger hunt, with a list of common objects to gather before midnight. All in all, it was a memorable (and charitable) night.

Ben (Chief social Secretary/judge, Left) presenting Dom (year 2, right) with the trophy

September 2015 - New surface area analyser

French and South Korean engineers toast the installation of a new surface area analyser, purchased as part of a £600,000 research program in the funded by EDF Energy, for the better understanding of the ageing of the cores in the UK’s 14 advanced gas-cooled nuclear reactors (AGRs). The new instrument is about to be used by Katie Jones, as part of her PhD studies, and after a long search across the world, proved to be the only instrument capable of measuring low surface areas with sufficient accuracy to work out how the graphite cores of the nuclear reactors are gradually losing mass.

September 2014

Ex-footballer named a 'Face of Chemistry'

A graduate who turned his back on a career in professional football and has become an award-winning environmental scientist has been honoured for his contribution to the field of chemistry.

Dr Charles West was once on the books of Hereford United before going back into the world of academia when he enrolled at Plymouth University in his early 20s.

He has since earned numerous accolades – including the Scopus Young Researcher UK Award for 2013 and being invited to join the judging panel of the Observer Ethical Awards 2014 – and has now been named as one of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s “175 Faces of Chemistry”.

Read the full story.


Bacteria may reduce the impact of diazepam in UK river environments

CCS research adorns the cover of the latest issue of Environmental Science : Processes and Impacts. The research by Drs Mark Fitzsimons and Alan Tappin at Plymouth, and colleagues at the Institutive of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool, demonstrates that natural photo degradation of diazepam (valium) and similar medicines, followed by bacterial breakdown, may reduce their potentially harmful impact on the UK’s freshwater environment. Diazepam – used to treat anxiety and other similar conditions – has been detected in rivers across the UK and Europe, having been released from waste water treatment plants. At these levels it has the potential to produce harmful ecological effects in surface waters, including changing the behaviour of fish shoals and their ability to sense danger from predators.

The study has generated considerable interest and was published online by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science Daily and an industrial processing publication

June 2014

Plymouth research leads to pollutant ban

A pollutant identified by Professor Steve Rowland, which killed thousands of birds off the coast of Britain in 2013, will no longer be dumped at sea after a worldwide ban was agreed. 

Professor Rowland and Dr Paul Sutton analysed the material found on guillemots and razobills washed up along the coast of South-West England, using high temperature gas chromatography as well as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry 

More than 4,000 birds were killed or injured by the chemical polyisobutene (PIB) between Cornwall and Sussex, and on the Channel Islands. 

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has reclassified PIBs from 2014. It means ships will only be able to wash their tanks and dispose of all PIB residues while in port. Until now it has been legal for discharges to be made when vessels wash out their tanks, as long as they are further than 12 nautical miles from the nearest point of land. 

January 2014

Fireworks Online
Dr Roy Lowry was commissioned to write about the chemistry of fireworks for the on-line publication “The Conversation”. ) The article was timed to coincide with the New Year displays. The Conversation seeks to combine journalism with academic rigour and the article was seen by over 1,500 readers around the world including the USA, Australia and the UK. Re-tweets of the article included links to the Dubai record-breaking attempt.

December 2013

Plymouth 'Chemis Tree' a festive hit
A `Chemis Tree’, designed by Plymouth Chemistry graduate, Katie Jones, with the help of organic chemistry technician Andrew Tonkin, was an online hit over the festive period. The tree, tweeted by Katie, went viral and was retweeted by, among others, Nature Chemistry.

November 2013

Scopus Young Researcher UK Awards 2013
Dr Charles West was announced as the Environmental Science winner of the Scopus Young Researcher UK Awards 2013 at a prestigious event held at  The Energy Technologies Institute, Prince Philip House, London on 14 November 2013. Charles and five other early career researchers were honoured during the Award Ceremony, which was attended by university executives, policy makers, senior researchers, Fulbright alumni and Elsevier top management. The award was developed by Elsevier in association with the US-UK Fulbright Commission and recognises the outstanding achievements of the UK’s early career researchers.

October 2013

CCS work featured in Elsevier Reference Module
A book chapter by Dr Mark Fitzsimons and co-authors on the biogeochemistry of suspended particles has been included in the Elsevier Reference Module for Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. This Reference Module contains trusted, peer-reviewed, comprehensive content from Elsevier reference works curated by a world-class editorial board. It is designed for faster, more relevant browsing within the subject and beyond, with topic pages for quick, clear overviews, subject hierarchies to put everything in context, and guidance to lead researchers to related knowledge.

September 2013

Enterprise within CCS
CCS' very own spin-out company, marketing software developed from research activity at Plymouth, has taken on its first full time employee. Katie Jones graduated with first class honours in chemistry in July this year. She is already familiar with the software through the chemistry course, and has previously worked in customer support. Katie (pictured) says she is thoroughly enjoying her new work environment. For more details see www.poreXpert.com or look up PoreXpert on YouTube.

August 2013

Professor Paul Worsfold re-elected as Chair of EuCheMS-DAC
The European Association for Chemical and Molecular Sciences (EuCheMS) brings together chemistry-related organisations throughout Europe to provide a single voice on key science and policy issues, based on expert scientific knowledge. EuCheMS is a not-for-profit organisation and has 41 member societies which together represent more than 150,000 chemists in academia, industry, government and professional organisations in 31 countries across Europe. EuCheMS brings together world class expertise in the underpinning science and development needed for innovation. The Division of Analytical Chemistry(DAC) is one of the most active divisions and one of its major roles is to organise the biennial EUROANALYSIS series of conferences. At the 2013 DAC Annual Meeting held in Warsaw, Poland, the delegates elected Professor Paul Worsfold (pictured) from CCS to serve  second term as DAC Chair from 2014-2016. He represents the Royal Society of Chemistry at DAC meetings and represents Analytical Chemistry at the EuCheMS General Assembly.

July 2013

Chemistry makes a splash in Cornish schools!
Following an invitation from Beth Anderson at the Royal Society of Chemistry, Dr Simon Ussher (pictured) headlined a schools event in July 2013 with a seminar on the ‘Chemistry of Seawater’. This took place at Newquay Tretherras School in Newquay and was attended by Year 10 students from five Cornish schools (Tretherras, Treviglas, Poltair, Camborne and Humphrey-Davy). 
The focus of Simon’s talk was bringing chemistry of the sea that surrounds the families of Cornwall into the classroom. He highlighted the importance of the forms, pollution and cycling of carbon in the environment. During live demonstrations with Simon, pupils got to make seawater from household products. They also used coloured salt waters and tanks to see how the ocean mixes and circulates. 
Undergraduate Helen Brown was flying the flag for Plymouth undergraduate chemistry students at the event and led classroom sessions making ‘Bath bombs’. All the pupils really enjoyed this and left the classroom looking messy but smelling divine! 

March 2013

CCS research featured in Environment Progress  
An article by Dr Mark Fitzsimons, reporting atrazine uptake by riverine bacteria, is currently featured on the Environment Progress website. Environment Progress alerts the scientific community to breaking journal articles considered to represent the best in Environmental Science research. It is viewed almost 50,000 times each month and has an audience of industry and academic personnel from a growing number of the top 20 major academic institutions.February 2013.

February 2013

Prestigious Chemistry event hosted by Plymouth University 
The Centre for Chemical Sciences, Plymouth University, hosted the prestigious RSC Analytical Division Prize and Award Winners Symposium on 13th February 2013, in collaboration with the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) and Western Region Analytical Division. The three speakers, Professor Scott McLuckey, Purdue University (Theophilus Redwood Award), Dr Christy Haynes, University of Minnesota (Joseph Black Award) and Professor Norman Dovichi, University of Notre Dame (Robert Boyle Award) presented fascinating details of their work on analytical developments and applications, including methods designed to identify protein content at cellular level and to `make molecules’ in a mass spectrometer. The awards were presented by the RSC Analytical Division President, Mr Alan Handley, and all parties then retired for a reception where enthusiastic discussions ensued.

CCS meets PIB 
Professor Steve Rowland and Dr Paul Sutton have analysed the material found on guillemots and razobills washed up along the coast of South-West England. Using high temperature gas chromatography as well as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry they have determined that the sticky, semi-solid substance is polyisobutene (PIB), which is used as an additive in oils to improve performance. Reports on the BBC News and Science and Environment pages show Paul extracting and analysing the material from a dead guillemot, while Steve explains more of the details behind the investigation. The work has also been reported in local and national newspapers. As they say, now it's a search for those responsible.

January 2013 

Chemistry in FLUX 
Year 2 Chemistry students took part in the FLUX business challenge which is now an annual event and a key part of professional skills development. After badging up and a briefing of the day, the teams were given a chemistry-related business challenge and made the way to their offices to start planning. With the pressure of two and a half hours until the business experts arrived to meet with them, they had to work quickly and efficiently to develop their ideas and put a business plan in place. It seemed they did just that as the experts were incredibly impressed with the teams and the ideas they had come up with. Ideas included renewable energy and environmentally-friendly plastics. With a further pressurised hour to refine and make their pitch, the teams were working hard to impress. The pitches went well and the teams handled the grilling questions expertly and had thought out even the smallest of details so the experts could not trip them up.