Sunday, 13 January 2019

Fifth Norman Lloyd Scholar selected

RSC Belgium is proud to announce that the fifth recipient of the Dr Norman C. Lloyd Scholarship at Cardiff University has been selected and is enjoying their first year at the university. William Cawdell started his MCheM degree in Chemistry at the end of September.

The Norman Lloyd Scholarship is given to new students to the Cardiff School of Chemistry who are of high academic standing and a resident of Wales.

In an email thanking the section for sponsoring his award William (pictured above) wrote:

"I am delighted to have been selected as a beneficiary of the Dr Norman C Lloyd scholarship. I am really enjoying my first semester studying chemistry at Cardiff University. As well as studying I enjoy playing badminton for the university squad and building computers. I plan to continue my education after my bachelors degree either in Cardiff or in another university either in the UK or abroad. I ultimately want to teach in schools or perhaps at university in the future."

We all wish William every success in his studies at Cardiff.

The scholarship
The Norman Lloyd scholarship was set up by RSC Belgium in collaboration with Norman’s family and Cardiff University in memory of our old friend and supporter Norman Lloyd. Norman was himself a student at an institution that is now part of the university. The funds raised provide an annual scholarship of £1,000 for an undergraduate student, usually in their first year of study, at the Cardiff School of Chemistry.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

TOTB International Eliminator 2018

Our annual 'international eliminator' for the Royal Society of Chemistry's Top of the Bench (ToTB) competition was held at the British School of Brussels (BSB) on Saturday 24 November 2018 with teams from Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands taking part. In total 11 teams from 6 schools participated. An exciting afternoon of chemical problem solving ended with the announcement of the 2018 winner of the Keith Price Cup: Team Fluorine from BSB. They will now represent RSC Belgium at the TOTB grand final in the UK in 2019.

This year the competition was even closer than normal with a very, very close finish between team Fluorine and team Oxygen from St George's International School in Luxembourg.

Wining formula
The teams completed individual written question papers and then enjoyed a challenging team Practical Problem Solving Exercise. As usual both the 'hands-on' practical and the paper-based component were developed by our resident competition guru, Rita Woodward. The competition was designed to really test the teams’ chemistry knowledge and problem-solving abilities and (hopefully) encourage young talented chemical scientists to consider further education and careers in Chemistry.

The individual scores from the written paper were added together for each team with the placings from the practical session to give an overall score.

Members of the winning Fluorine team (pictured above) received our TOTB Keith Price Cup as well as some RSC goodies. All the student participants will receive a certificate.

Our huge thanks our committee judges Bob Crichton and Julie Tuppeny, and to all the teachers and other volunteers involved in preparing and organising the event, in particular Helen and William Darnley, Jane Downing, David Douheret and Greg Koc from BSB, and, of course, Rita.

TOTB 2018 line-up

The full list of participating teams for our 2018 competition was:

Lithium - European School Brussels 4 (Laeken)
Sulfur - European School Brussels 4 (Laeken)
Bromine - European School Brussels 2 (Woluwe)
Magnesium - European School Brussels 2 (Woluwe)
Vanandium - International School of Flanders (Rhode St Genese)
Copper - British School of Brussels (Tervuren)
Fluorine - British School of Brussels (Tervuren)
Chromium - United World Colleges (Maastricht)
Nitrogen -  United World Colleges (Maastricht)
Calcium - St Georges International School (Luxembourg)
Oxygen - St Georges International School (Luxembourg)

The TOTB Finals will take place in the UK on 9 March 2019 at the University of Birmingham and RSC Belgium will sponsor the travel arrangements for our winning team. The RSC Belgium team is usually the only competing school team not based in the British Isles.

Our next TOTB Eliminator Round will take place in Q4 2019. Get your school involved!

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

More curling in Kent

On our second visit to England's only curling rink RSC Belgium has recorded a famous victory! Our return visit to the RSC Kent organised event at Fenton's curling rink near Tunbridge Wells was on Saturday 8 December and victory was secured with the final stone.

RSC Kent local section have been holding an annual festive curling event for a number of years and invited RSC Belgium to participate for the first time in 2017. The invite was repeated this year.

This year's RSC team consisted of section chairman Tim Reynolds (pictured 'in action' below), recent ex-section secretary Becki Scott (now a resident of Kent), Helen Lee (Mrs Chairman), Antony Lee Reynolds (Chairman's son) and two locally recruited 'ringers' (friends of the chairman) Sally Wellsteed and Richard Hucker (also pictured below).

Curling has been an Olympic Winter sport since 1988 and is one of the few events everyone can try. It is fair to say that curling is a game that is easy to play, but may take several lifetimes to master... however it was great fun and RSC Belgium participants aim to return again!

The game is suitable for young and old, and can be played as a social or competitive sport. As England's only dedicated ice curling rink, Fenton’s three lanes offer a unique opportunity for people to give curling a go or just meet up for some fun. And there was very little slipping over thanks to the special 'sticky' shoes supplied by the venue.

Warm welcome
The Kent section have been organising a curling event for a few years now and the main protagonist, Dave Alker, has seen the event grow and grow in recent years. For 2018 demand was such that he had booked three two-hour sessions. A fine lunch of Lasagna and salad followed by Lemon Drizzle cake was included and the rink has its own cash bar too.

Participants were a mixture of ‘regulars’ i.e. those who had embarrassed themselves on the rink in previous years, and newcomers. The participants ranged from 18 to 80 and included RSC members, guests and partners as well as ex-RSC staff members and, of course, our Belgian contingent. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Dave and the Kent section are already preparing for the 2019 event with the venue provisionally booked for Saturday 30 November - appropriately on St. Andrews Day. See you there?

Cheers to CO2

On the evening of Thursday 29 November RSC Belgium was delighted to welcome Dr César Alejandro Urbina Blanco from Ghent University to St. John’s International School in Waterloo to talk to us about some fascinating developments in the chemistry of using carbon dioxide (CO2) as a chemical feedstock. César is currently working as a Post Doctoral Researcher in the Laboratory for Chemical Technology at Ghent on sustainable chemistry and the utilisation of CO2.

César told the story of that little molecule responsible for the bubbles in your fizzy drink, which is also the main chemical culprit responsible for global warming and climate change. He described how CO2 is all around us, how we produce it directly or indirectly every time we switch on a lamp, buy a product or even breathe! Using fossil fuel for energy and as the main feedstock for the chemical industry has caused the release of unsustainable amounts of CO2 to the atmosphere.

So how do we solve the global CO2 problem without compromising our lifestyle? Chemistry, of course! César outlined the many ways in which chemists are now looking to turn CO2 back into valuable products from fuel to foam for mattresses.

Cesar is a passionate chemist and has been identified as a future leader by the American Chemistry Society. He gave an impassioned speech at the Science March in Brussels last year. A native of Venezuela, César studied Chemistry in Universidad Simón Bolívar in Caracas including a final year project at The Institute of Chemistry of Organometallic Compounds in Florence, Italy under supervision of Prof. Maurizio Peruzzini.

He completed his PhD in Organometallic Chemistry and Catalysis at the University of St Andrews in Scotland where he worked on the development of commercial olefin metathesis catalysts under supervision of Prof. Steve Nolan – now also at Ghent. César then moved as a Postdoctoral Researcher in the field of Green Chemistry to RWTH Aachen University in Germany with Prof. Walter Leiner and Jürgen Klankermayer, before coming to Belgium.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

A Kind of Blue

On the evening of Wednesday 17 October, RSC Belgium welcomed science and art fans to the Performing Arts Centre at St. Johns International School in Waterloo to hear from David Dobson, Professor of Earth Materials at University College London (UCL). The subject was  'Blue'.

The colour blue has been the rarest and most expensive pigment, for centuries reserved  for emperors and gods. Even today modern blue pigments command a premium and finding a good all-round blue is an ongoing area of research.  Blue minerals are very rare - the commonest colour-producing element, iron, normally makes greens, yellow and reds. As a consequence, this was the available pallet for most of human history, but with increased travel in the late Middle Ages and the development of synthetic technologies at various times in our history blue became available to the richest patrons. 

David (pictured above) discussed the history and technology of blue pigments in western art, from pre-Roman right through to the 21st century with a couple of chemical demonstrations to illustrate particular points.  He also described his work to develop a new blue modelled on the mineral structures which exist 500 kilometres deep beneath our feet. 

Scientist and artist
David's scientific career, working with colleagues at UCL and the Bayerisches Geoinstitut in Bayreuth Germany, involves very high- pressure experiments on deep Earth materials; the synthesis and properties of new iron-alloy phases relevant to the Earth’s core; transport properties of mantle mineral rocks and minerals; and deep seismicity.

In January 2017 David also became the first ‘Scientist in Residence’ at the Slade School of Art in London being based within the school for one year. The residency was a result of an ongoing Materials Research Project at the Slade, which highlights the role of materials within the creative and artistic process and The Pigment Timeline - a collaborative, cross-disciplinary research project that investigates and establishes connections across all departments at UCL that involve pigment and colour in any aspect of their research.

David's talk was particularly thought provoking and raised many questions from an audience on aspects of science and art. David is also an engraver and mountaineer and you can find images covering all his enthusiasms at: 

Chemistry and the Future of Life on Earth

On Thursday 20 September RSC Belgium welcomed Prof David Cole-Hamilton of St Andrews University and current vice-president of EuChemS, the European Chemical Society, to the British School of Brussels to give us his view on 'Chemistry and the Future of Life on Earth'. David also helped had out the prizes for our 2018 Chemistry Challenge competition and gave the audience one of the first public views of EuChemS new version of the periodic table of the elements. Next year, 2019, will be the United Nations / IUPAC Year of the Periodic Table.

David (pictured below) described some of the major problems facing the world and what Chemistry can do and is doing to alleviate them.

The future of life on earth is threatened by a whole range of potential problems, many of them man-made. They range from ones that have been around since biblical times such as famine, pestilence, disease and war to the more modern ones of pollution of the land seas and sky, depletion of natural resources and the population explosion. In his lecture David examined the role of chemistry in combating all of these problems.

New periodic table
2019 will be the UN/ IUPAC Year of the  Periodic Table (IYPT2019) and EuChemS has devised a unique Periodic Table (see below) that highlights the issue of element scarcity and was officially launched on 19 September. The new Periodic Table is available for free download now and a video game based on it will be available from 22 January 2019.

During a networking reception after the awards and lecture, a collection for our Norman Lloyd Scholarship Fund was taken that yielded over EUR 110. This will enable us to top up the fund to just over £ 2 000 and ensured that we can fund two more scholars in academic years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. The fund will have supported six first year chemistry students at Cardiff University by the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

2018 Chemistry Challenge Winners announced, top prize shared!

The results of the RSC Belgium Chemistry Challenge 2018 were announced and the talented prize winners picked up their winnings at a special RSC Belgium event with Prof David Cole-Hamilton, past president of EuChemS, the European Chemical Society, on the evening of 20 September at the British School of Brussels (BSB). Once again we received some 100 entries from international and European schools in Brussels and beyond for this testing challenge of young people's chemical knowledge and initiative. And for the first time ever we had a dead-heat for the Keith Price Prize for best overall performance in terms of chemical knowledge.

The RSC Belgium Chemical Challenge has three sections:
A/ A chemistry multiple choice paper
B/ A structured questions on chemistry, and
C/ A 'Thinking Matters' paper that is not chemistry based

And the top results were as follows:

Section A: Multiple choice
First place was taken by Faiz Haris Osman from BSB with second place shared by Thomas Groom of BSB and Vincent Sietses from St. Johns International School. Third place was a three-way tie between Linxiao Chen from BSB, Ignacia Bricchi from St. Johns and Maria Tencheva from the European School Brussels IV at Laeken. Some of the prize winners are pictured below with our special guest Prof. David Cole-Hamilton.

Section B: Structured Questions
In this section first prize was awarded to Vincent Sietses from St. Johns with second prize shared by Lara Melloul from the International School of Brussels (ISB) and Faiz Haris Osman of BSB. Two students also shared the third prize: Thomas Groom of BSB and Luan Cruz Pitanattero of the European School at Mol.

Section C: Thinking Matters
Here first place was awarded to Faiz Haris Osman from BSB with Bernard Benz from BSB taking second prize and third place shared between Shahriar Hossain from St. Johns and Natalie Kopp from the European School Brussels III at Ixelles.

Keith Price Prize
For the first time ever, we had a dead-heat for the top spot, the prestigious Keith Price Prize for the best best overall score in the chemistry focused sections (A and B). The joint winners were Faiz Haris Osman from BSB and Vincent Sietses of St. Johns.

First prize winners in each section received €50, second €25 and third places €10 with the winners of the Keith Price Prize receiving an additional €100 each.

Well done to everyone who took part in this year's Chemistry Challenge! Every student that entered the competition receives a certificate of participation. We will be running the Challenge again in 2019.