Tuesday, October 28, 2014

First Norman C Lloyd Scholarship announced

RSC Belgium is proud to announce that the first recipient of the Dr Norman C. Lloyd Scholarship at Cardiff University a scholarship has been selected. Ms Dale Lyons hails from Swansea and started her BSc degree in Chemistry at the end of September.

Pictured below with Prof Ruedi Allemann, Head of the School of Chemistry at Cardiff (left), and Dr Chris Morley, Director of Teaching and Learning at Cardiff, Dale said: “I’m so happy, pleased and honoured to have been awarded this scholarship. It has made me even more determined to succeed well in my Chemistry degree and do my best throughout the year.”


“I will put the scholarship towards my fees for this year and also use it to buy some of the chemistry books I will require. This will be a great help to me as it has surprised me how the cost of everything adds up so quickly and I can now get all the books and resources I require which will be vital for my studying, hopefully helping me achieve a good grade,” she continues.

“I would like to thank you so much for you generosity and kindness as this scholarship will really make a big difference for me. It was such a wonderful surprise to find out that I had been awarded it. It has not only eased some of my financial concerns but has made me more determined to do well in my degree and make the most of every opportunity that becomes available to me. I cannot wait to start my studies of chemistry at Cardiff University. Thank you,” concludes Dale.

I am sure you will all join Setsuko’s family in wishing Dale every success in her studies at Cardiff and we look forward to hearing her progress over the year.

The scholarship
The Norman Lloyd scholarship was set up by RSC Belgium in collaboration with Norman’s family and the 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.

If you would like to donate to the fund follow this link. More information on the scholarship can be found here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Constraining the Origin and Evolution of Life

On 2 October RSC Belgium was proud to present a fascinating talk on the Bioenergetic Constraints on the Origin and Evolution of Life from Dr Nick Lane of University College London. The event was also the prize giving ceremony for our 2014 Chemistry Challenge.

Nick Lane is an evolutionary biochemist and writer in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London (UCL). He was awarded the inaugural UCL Provost's Venture Research Prize for his research on evolutionary biochemistry and bioenergetics and his current work focuses on the origin of life, and the origin and evolution of eukaryotes. He was a founding member of the UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research, and leads the UCL Research Frontiers Origins of Life programme.

Common ancestor
All complex life on Earth is eukaryotic, and all eukaryotes (the cells found in plants and animals) share a common ancestor that was already a complex cell explained Nick. Despite their biochemical virtuosity, prokaryotes (cells found in bacteria) shown no tendency to evolve eukaryotic traits or large genomes over the huge timescale that they have existed.


Nick (above) argued that prokaryotes are constrained by their membrane bioenergetics, for fundamental reasons that stem from the very origin of life. Eukaryotes arose in a rare symbiosis between two prokaryotes, which broke the energetic constraints on prokaryotes and gave rise to mitochondria - often described as power plants for our cells. Loss of almost all mitochondrial genes produced an extreme genomic asymmetry in eukaryotes, in which tiny mitochondrial genomes support, energetically, a massive nuclear genome, giving eukaryotes 3 to 4 orders of magnitude more energy per gene than prokaryotes. The requirement for endosymbiosis radically altered selection on eukaryotes, potentially explaining the evolution of unique traits, including two sexes, germline, speciation and ageing.

As our audience appreciated Nick is an excellent communicator and the author of three critically acclaimed books on evolutionary biochemistry, the most recent of which, Life Ascending, won the 2010 Royal Society Prize for Science Books. His other two popular publications are ‘Power, Sex, Suicide’ and ‘Oxygen’. Our friends at Waterstones bookshop were present for the post talk drinks and networking with copies of Nick's books for sale. They also took some excellent photos!

Keith Price Prize
Before the lecture the highest scoring entries in our 2014 Chemistry Challenge were presented with their prizes. This year John Eade of BSB (pictured below right with section chairman Prof Bob Crichton) received the Keith Price Prize for best overall score in sections A and B (the two more chemically-orientated elements of our three-part challenge). For the three individual sections first prize winners received a €50 cash prize, second places got €25 and third places €10 with the winner of the Keith Price Prize receiving an additional €100.


Well done to everyone who took part! Every student that entered the competition received a certificate of participation. We will be running the Challenge again in 2015. And look out for our Top of the Bench International eliminator coming soon!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Famous Bruxellois

On a very sunny September Saturday morning RSC Belgium members and friends were taken on a fascinating ramble through the centre of old Brussels. Our experienced guide was Sarah Strange and the two-hour stroll proved to be entertaining and informative in equal measure.

The starting point for our Saturday morning excursion was the Ravenstein entrance of the Bozar at 10h00 sharp and our route took us through the Park and Sablon area eventually terminating in Grand Place just after noon.


Brussels has always been a meeting point of celebrities from all walks of life and myriad nationalities. The city boasts 300 foreign embassies, more than anywhere else! Many foreign visitors have left their mark on local and world history and sometimes their impressions of Belgium in writing, but there are many “locals” who deserve to be put in the limelight. In this two-hour walking tour the term “citizen” is used loosely and encompasses those who have just passed through as well as lived in Brussels.


Our grand tour brought us into contact with the Bronte sisters, Lord Byron, Walter Scott, the Dukes of Brabant, Godfrey du Boullion, Thomas Gresham, Reubens, Voltaire, Jacques Brel and Edith Cavell to mention just a few!


Poetry in Motion
Our guide Sarah Strange is also an author and, in particular, has been writing poems since she was seven years old. She finds inspiration all around: nature, people, life events, current affairs, emotions and the quirky side of life. You can find out more about her writing on Sarah's blog.

And this month sees the publication of a beautiful hardback volume of her touching and uplifting poems. Sarah will be giving a reading and signing copies of her book at Waterstones on Friday 10 October from 7pm.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Chemistry Challenge 2014 Winners Announced

The results of the RSC Belgium Chemistry Challenge 2014 have been announced and the talented prize winners will be picking up their winnings at a special RSC Belgium event on 02 October at the British School of Brussels from 19:30. This year we received 110 eligible entries from eight international schools in this testing challenge of young people's chemical knowledge and initiative.

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 was Charles Wackwitz of the International School of Brussels (ISB).
Joint second were John Eade of the British School of Brussels (BSB) and Alexander Van Tuyll of the European School at Mol (Mol).
And three students tied for third prize: Bram Den Dekker and Pierre-Emmanuel Grimm of ISB and Juan Attard of the European School Brussels 1 at Uccle (EEB1).

Section B: Structured Questions
First was Joe Hawkins of St Johns International School Waterloo (St. Johns).
Second was John Eade of BSB.
Third prize was claimed by four students: Lion Seiffert of the European School Brussels 3 at Ixelles (EEB3), and Bram Den Dekker, Sinan Akosman and Charlie De Backer of ISB.

Section C: Thinking Matters
First was Emily Croasdale (BSB).
Joint second were Julia Clarke and Jamie Burnett (both EEB3).
Joint third were Catalina Poraicu and Juan Attard both at EEB1.

Keith Price Prize
John Eade of BSB also receives the Keith Price Prize for best overall score in sections A and B. First prize winners recieve €50, second €25 and third places €10 with the winner of the Keith Price Prize receiving an additional €100.

Well done to everyone that took part! Every student that entered the competition receives a certificate of participation. We will be running the Challenge again in 2015. And look out for our Top of the Bench International eliminator coming soon!

The Challenge
The Chemistry Challenge competition was devised and compiled by RSC Belgium treasurer Rita Woodward and is open to students from any school in Belgium. The questions are set in English, but may be answered in English, French, Dutch or German.

The competition is open to school students in their penultimate year of High School (usually aged 16 – 17), and consists of a 2 hour written test held in school and designed to demonstrate the participants’ knowledge of chemistry and their ability to think logically.

Award event: Origins and evolution
The Chemistry Challenge prizes will be handed out to the winners prior to our next evening lecture event with Dr. Nick Lane on the Origin and Evolution of Life.

Nick Lane is an evolutionary biochemist and writer in the Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, University College London (UCL). He was awarded the inaugural UCL Provost's Venture Research Prize for his research on evolutionary biochemistry and bioenergetics and his current work focuses on the origin of life, and the origin and evolution of eukaryotes. He was a founding member of the UCL Consortium for Mitochondrial Research, and leads the UCL Research Frontiers Origins of Life programme.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Taste of Molecules at BSB


RSC Belgium's last event before the summer break was something different. The evening of May 13 featured journalist and author Diane Fresquez  (right) who joined us to explore her new book : “A Taste of Molecules: In Search of the Secrets of Flavour” in the relaxed surroundings of the Swoosh Lounge at the British School of Brussels (BSB).  The event saw her being interviewed about the book by our section secretary Tim Reynolds and also offered the opportunity for participants to sample some the flavours that Diane describes in her book.

The evening was a great success with an audience of over 50 people and Waterstones Brussels were also there and were selling copies of Diane's book. They also took some great photos of the event (see below)!


In writing her diverting volume Diane undertook a journey of the senses through Belgium and beyond and produced a highly entertaining blend of food stories, memoir and recipes with a hefty helping of food science, nutrition and chemistry. The interview (above) explored how Diane put the book together and looked at some of the aspects of the science behind some of her favourite flavours.


Sel_pHies
At the event Diane also revealed her next venture: Sel_pHies. Diane will be involved with the EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) 2014 in Copenhagen where she will help celebrate over 100 years of the pH scale. The pH scale was invented at the Carlsberg Brewery in Copenhagen in 1909 by their chief scientist Søren Sørensen.

The @sel_pHies concept is to take the pH of any substance - for example your favourite beer and then snap a photo of the substance, the pH strip (and optionally yourself!) and post it to either the Sel_pHies facebook page or twitter account. Good fun!



Before and after the interview itself the audience was able to sample some cheese , wine and Diane's chutney and some very fine mead that are featured in the book.

For more information about 'A Taste of Molecules' visit Diane's website. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

BSB boosts Belgium at TOTB Final

On Friday 28 March, 2014, four very excited students from the British School of Brussels (BSB) set out on their journey to take part in the Top of the Bench Final that took place at Loughborough University, UK on Saturday 29 March. The BSB 'Bromine' team represented RSC Belgium following their victory at our Belgian eliminator contest in November. BSB teacher and RSC Belgium exec member Jane Downing sent us this report.

"Throughout the journey they chattered non-stop about their chemistry, each trying to help the other revise the hardest topics. To be frank I think all of them could enter their IGCSE exam this year and pass!

The BSB team consisted of Maria, Jasper, Gabriela and Emma (see below) and did themselves, BSB and the RSC Belgium section proud. The team maintained a high level of enthusiasm throughout the competition, encouraging each other and commiserating when they were not placed in the top six teams.They were tested with practical tasks using High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Ion Identification, both normally topics for second year university students apparently!


The day finished with a most entertaining lecture 'What has Analytical Chemistry ever done for us?'  by Prof. Colin Creaser. And if you know this field of chemistry then you know what a feat this was!

The students had such an enjoyable time that they spent the return journey, planning their teams for next year's competition!

Many thanks to the RSC(Belgium section)'s support for the team!"

TOTB 2014 
The RSC Top of the Bench 2014 saw 29 teams taking part from across the UK plus, of course, Belgium. The competition was jointly organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry and Loughborough University and tested students' knowledge of chemistry through written and practical exercises.

The overall winner was Ardingly College, from the Downland RSC Local Section who received the TOTB trophy from Professor Ray Jones, President of the RSC's Organic Division and Professor of Organic and Biological Chemistry at Loughborough University.

The winning team members each received gift vouchers and £500 for their school to spend on equipment for the Chemistry department.

The runners-up were from Bolton School (Boys' Division) from the Manchester & District RSC Local Section.

RSC Belgium will be holding our 2014 eliminator during November - so get you teams ready now!

A Better Bang in Brussels

On 7 and 8 April RSC Belgium was delighted to welcome Dr Hal Sosabowski of Brighton University (right, below) and his top team of Dave 'Sideshow' Campbell (centre) and Kurt 'the Driver' Charnock (left) back to Belgium for four explosive demonstration lectures.


The demos were staged in the Roi Baudouin lecture theatres in the Rosalind Franklin Building of the Universite Catholique Louvain (UCL) Woluwe Campus in Brussels.

Three daytime lectures for school audiences (one on Monday 7 April and two on Tuesday 8 April) and an evening public lecture on Monday were staged with the support Air Liquide (for gases), Prof Istvan Marko and Fabio Lucaccioni at UCL Louvain-la-Neuve, and the local team at UCL Woluwe.


Audiences totalled well over 500 over the four shows and everyone left with a smile on their face, inspired and having learnt something new!


Each show lasted well over an hour with questions afterwards and featured classic experiments such as the deadly 'Phosphorus Sun' (above) and the rasping 'Barking Dogs' (below) - the latter involving some infeasibly large test tubes.


Feedback from teachers, members, friends and students was all extremely positive and we'll try not to leave it so long for Dr. Hal's next shows in Belgium.