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.

A Devilish Good Time at Duvel

A sunny Saturday morning greeted the group of RSC Belgium Members and friends who ventured out to visit the Duvel Moortgat Brewery in the Flemish town of Puurs on 15 September 2018. The group were treated to an informative and entertaining guided tour of the brewing and bottling operations of this fiercely independent family business.

The Duvel story started in 1871 when Jan-Leonard Moortgat and his wife founded the brewery on their farm. The beers were developed via a trial and error basis but sales rose and by 1900 Jan-Leonard's two sons Albert and Victor had joined the firm.

A Scottish connection
The First World War brought many English' beers to Belgium with the British army and Albert decided to create a special beer based on the (then current) English model.To do this he needed to acquire specific strains of yeast so in 1918 travelled to the UK, but met some resistance from English brewers. He eventually obtained a sample of yeast from a Scottish brewer - and this strain is still used today to brew Duvel beer.

Using the new yeast the two brothers perfected their recipe and launched it as 'Victory Ale' to mark the end of the war. The name lasted until 1923 when following a 'tasting session' with local dignitaries a shoemaker Mr van De Wouwer was so amazed at the beer's potency that he exclaimed 'This is a real Duvel (Devil)!' And the name stuck.

The famous tulip-shaped Duvel glass first appeared in the late 1960s and was the first of its kind able to take a full 33 cl bottle and allow a more complete experience of the beer's aromas and flavour.

Today the fourth generation of the Moortgat family is keeping the company at the forefront of brewing and expanding their sale internationally while ensuring that quality and sustainability are guaranteed.

Following our guided tour and the group enjoyed a glass or two of the Duvel's production and some other very interesting beers with the help of the skilled beer wranglers at the Brewery's bar.

For more information on the Duvel Brewery and available tours, please visit their website. Highly recommended.

Monday, 18 June 2018

A Trip to TrainWorld

On Saturday 16 June 2018 a select group of RSC Belgium members and friends were treated to a guided tour of the (relatively) new TrainWorld museum adjacent to the grand old station at Schaarbeek in Brussels. Following our experience we can highly recommend a trip to TrainWorld!

The guided tour took over two hours and was full of new facts and fascinating information. How many train stations are there in the grounds of the royal place at Laeken? How many oak trees were required to be felled to provide the sleepers for every mile of rail road in the 19th century? (Answers below)*.

Belgium was a very early adopter of rail technology with the first commercial (and nationalised) railway line in continental Europe opened between Brussels and Mechelen in 1835. Initially the Belgians imported UK technology but rapidly 'copied' and developed their own engines becoming the leading global exporter of railway equipment during the 1800s.

The museum itself incorporates ancient and modern. The tour starts in the impressive interior of the old Schaarbeek station and then enters four massive modern halls full of old engines and railway memorabilia with something to amuse visitors of any age and degree of interest in trains.

*There are three railway stations in or under the palace grounds. 880 oak trees were needed per mile!

Chemical Bonding in the 21st Century

On Monday 28 May 2018 a full day symposium was organised by the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB) in honour of  the visit to Brussels of Professor Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry in 1981. The theme of the symposium is central in Hoffmann’s work: the Chemical Bond. 

The aim of the Symposium was twofold:in the morning session, the audience got an in-depth impression of Hoffmann’s work, ideas and vision on the chemical bond in a special two hours lecture with a pedagogical perspective from Prof Hoffmann. This was a veritable tour de force from the distinguished that was informative and entertaining in equal measure.

Matthias Bickelhaupt (VU Amsterdam), a former postdoc with Hoffmann, closes the morning session discussing “Chemical Bonding in Transition States”.

In the afternoon session, the context is different: six young but already renowned scientists from six Belgian universities highlighted their work, offering Roald Hoffmann and the audience an impression of the present status of Quantum and Theoretical Chemistry in Belgium.

The afternoon session included two contributions from RSC Belgium members: Jeremy Harvey of KULeuven who described his work on chemical bonds in dynamics and microscopy and Prof Benoit Champagne from the University of Namur who talked about his work on molecule, polymers and supramolecular assemblies.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Chemistry and Music: a Popular Combination!

On Thursday 19 April 2018 RSC Belgium members and friends were treated to an likely combination of Chemistry and Music at St Johns International School with Professor Adrian Dobbs of Greenwich University. This evening talk, chemistry demonstration and musical performance attracted a large and enthusiastic audience to the Music Room and its Grand Piano.

During the talk entitled 'Chemistry and Music: an unlikely combination?' Prof Adrian Dobbs, accompanied by Sophie Brewer, discussed the historic links between music and chemistry, including how chemistry has contributed to the manufacture of musical instruments and how many famous musicians have had links to chemistry and much more! Did you know that quintessential English composer Edward Elgar was a keen amateur chemist. Or that Russian compose Borodin was torn throughout his career between the professions of chemistry and music.

We learnt about the chemistry behind Stradivarius's violins and guitar strings and Adrian and Sophie performed a number of musical pieces with Adrian playing the piano and Sophie on flute and violin.

In addition Professor Dobbs recruited volunteers from the audience to participate in some demonstration chemistry including making your own polymers and simple electroplating. All using chemical substances commonly found in the home.

All in all the event proved that Chemistry and Music was a very interesting combination and was greatly appreciated by our audience.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology

Our 2017-18 programme continued on Thursday 22 March with a fascinating insight into the CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology with Prof Bernard Hallet from the Universite Catholique de Louvain in his talk: 'Genome Editing by CRISPR-CAS9: Turning a Bacterial Trick into a Biotechnology Revolution”.

Prof Hallet (pictured below) described the biological and chemical basis of the CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technique and how the development of targeted genome editing systems, such as CRISPR, and their applications has moved forward enormously in the last decade.  In the last five years the field has undergone a quantum leap with the introduction of CRISPR-Cas9, the bacterial immune system which can be used to edit genomes on demand.

Bernard outlined how this serendipitous discovery that bacteria contained DNA sequences which were repeated, and interspersed with unique sequences, latterly identified as viral DNA, derived from viruses that had previously infected the bacteria.

It was then found that close to the CRISPR sequences, genes were located coding for CRISPR-associated proteins (Cas), which have nuclease activity. Together with small guide RNAs (crRNAs) which have been transcribed from the CRISPR locus, one or more Cas proteins form ribonucleoprotein targeting complexes, with each contain a single guide sequence. The Cas nuclease (usually Cas9) then cleaves the target DNA, marked for degradation by base-pairing with the crRNA.

In 2012, Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna proposed that the CRISPR-Cas9 system could be used for programmable gene editing, an idea that has since been further developed by many research groups for potential applications ranging from creating smart model systems for fundamental protein research to enabling bio-engineers to modify crops and farm animals, and translational scientists to develop novel treatment approaches for inherited and acquired disorders for which curative treatment options are not currently available.

This fabulous CRISPR-Cas9 story provides the perfect example of how basic bacterial research has moved the whole scientific community towards the next biotechnological revolution and sparked an extended Q and A after the talk itself.

Charpentier at Louvain-la-Neuve
The title Doctors Honoris Causa will be awarded by the Universite Catholique de Louvain to Prof  Emmanuelle Charpentier of the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Berlin, Germany for her discovery of the CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing system and to Prof Malcolm Bennett University of Nottingham, United Kingdom for his work on the root system of plants at a ceremony on 18 April.

The ceremony will take place at the UCL campus of Louvain-la-Neuve (Life Sciences Institute, ISV) on Wednesday April 18. For more information on this event and to register visit the UCL-ISV website.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

An Evening with Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff

On Friday 23 February, RSC Belgium was delighted to host an informal evening with Professor Sir Martyn Poliakoff. The event took place at the British School of Brussels and was a hugely informative and entertaining soiree with one of Europe's most eminent chemists and science communicators.

Staged in a Cafe Chimique style, with refreshments available throughout the evening, Prof Poliakoff first gave a short talk on his work and career covering his research interests focused on supercritical fluids, continuous reactions and their applications to Green Chemistry.  He also talked about the Periodic Table of Videos, which he hosts.

Prof Poliakoff then answered questions from the audience for over an hour before further informal questions at the end. Our audience for the evening ranged from six to seventy and an excellent time was had by all.

During the evening we took a collection to support our Norman Lloyd Scholarships at Cardiff University and raised a further EUR 200 for the fund. Many thanks to all who contributed.

About Sir Martyn
Sir Martyn Poliakoff CBE FRS FREng studied at King's College, Cambridge, gaining his Ph.D. in 1973 on the Matrix Isolation of Large Molecules. Following time at the University of Newcastle he joined Nottingham University in 1979. He is Honorary Professor of Chemistry at Moscow State University. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, the RSC and the IChemE and was awarded CBE in 2008 for "Services to Sciences", and knighted in 2015 for "Services to the Chemical Sciences". He was Foreign Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society from 2011 to 2016.

A taster for the Periodic Table of Videos is below - featuring Hydrogen.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

RSC Belgium 2018 AGM Report

The section's Annual General Meeting (AGM) took place on Friday  2 February 2018 at Les Amis Dinent Restaurant in Wezembeek-Oppem at 19h30 and was followed by the section's Annual Dinner from 20h00. The meeting opened at 19:30 with ten members present but a further eight members, who were unable to attend the AGM in person, had asked the Chairman to act as their proxy for the meeting if a vote was required thus achieving our quorum.

Following recording of apologies received, the minutes of our previous AGM of 10 February 2017 were approved with no corrections.  The section secretary, William Darnley then presented the Committee Report on the Section’s 2017 Activities. During the year the section organised twelve events, four evening lectures, two weekend social events, both of which were guided tours, the usual two school/outreach events and the ever popular Cafe Chimique. The committee attended an inter-section curling event in Kent in December, and finally, the committee did some fundraising to top up the Norman Lloyd Scholarship Fund. Membership of the section stood at 129, a slight dip on last of four.

Among the highlights were the lecture on energetic materials presented by Dr. Matt Andrews of MSIAC at NATO, the guided tour around the “Het Anker” brewery in Mechelen at the beginning of September and the lecture on “Copernicus: the EU’s Earth Observation Success story” back in February. Feedback from Cardiff University about Ms. Jessica Powell (the third recipient of the Norman Lloyd Scholarship) was very positive. The recipient for 2017-2018 was named as Ms. Ffion Cartwright. The report was unanimously approved (proposed by David Terrell and seconded by Brian Sutcliffe).

Section Finances
The treasurer, Julie Tupenny presented the 2017 financial report and accounts. On the 1st of January 2017, the net assets of the RSC Belgium Section were €5918 approx. The annual grant from RSC UK was €6000, somewhat less than the requested €7000. However, with careful management and a very successful Summer Concert at BSB the financial situation is good. The committee aims to keep the account at around €7000 due to Belgian regulations where the section officers are personally responsible for any deficit, and to the end a grant of €7000 will be requested from HQ.

The treasurer personally thanked Ralph Palim F.C.A the Hon. Auditor for his thoroughness in auditing and approving the accounts for the RSC Belgium Section for the year ending 31 December 2017. He will continue as auditor for the section accounts for 2018.

The meeting moved (William Darnley), seconded (Brian Sutcliffe) and unanimously adopted the audited accounts and the Treasurer’s report.

Chairman’s Remarks
Section chairman Tim Reynolds thanked the committee for their hard work and support during the year. We had hosted an interesting programme and survived financially despite a lower grant than that which had been requested.

In particular he thanked two members of the committee that were effectively stepping down from the committee at this AGM – Becki Scott and John Swift who had or were both returning to the UK. He also thanked William Darnley for stepping up to take over Becki’s role as secretary.

The Chairman also noted the sad loss of two very good friends and supporters of the section’s activities during 2017: Dr Ian Carson and Prof Istvan Marko.

The Chairman also extended a welcome to the newly elected committee members and the incoming Treasurer. He looked forward to our varied and interesting programme for the coming year.

Committee elections
Nominations for Section Secretary: William Darnley. Elected with no objections

Nominations for ordinary committee members: Jane Downing and David Terrell. Elected with no objections

The first meeting of the 2018 Executive Committee was held on 20 February 2018.

Closing remarks
The Treasurer said she had found a way to make a modest saving for the section each year, by switching to digital bank statements. This was greeted with enthusiasm by all members present.

All business being completed the meeting adjourned at 19:55 and the Annual Dinner commenced. You can access the draft Minutes of the 2018 AGM here. These minutes will be presented to the AGM of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Belgium Section in 2019 for approval.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Potteries of the Caribbean

Our last lecture of 2017 took place on Friday 24 November and was given by our departing section secretary Dr Becki Scott who described her recent scientific adventures in the Caribbean in ‘Potteries of the Caribbean’. The lecture took place in the social area behind Brel Theatre at the British School of Brussels.

The Caribbean has a rich and varied past, often represented by ceramic objects. Ceramic objects are usually prolific on archaeological sites and therefore form a focus for many interdisciplinary studies.

These remains can provide a wealth of information about past cultures, relating to style, manufacturing technology, and ultimately past trade and resource management. Stylistic and typological studies can be used to create relative chronologies for a site, while chemical and petrographic analyses are used to provenance the raw material(s) used in the manufacture of the object. Although fragments of ceramics are sometimes available for destructive analyses, many objects held in collections are not. Likewise, these precious objects cannot always be transported to laboratories for further study.

Becki was involved with a couple of projects focusing on the provenancing of ceramic objects from the Lesser Antilles. Ceramic fragments from excavation contexts in the Caribbean had been sent to Europe for destructive chemical and petrographic analyses. However, larger, more complete objects in collections on the islands of Grenada and St. Vincent could neither be sub-sampled nor exported.

Becki developed a method of using a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (pXRF) to analyse these objects. In other words, she took the instrument to the objects, rather than the objects to the lab. The result of this work has meant that objects, which would otherwise not be analysed geochemically, could be used to contribute to studies determining the cultural interactions between the islands of the Lesser Antilles.

Find out more about Becki's Caribbean adventures and her work in other areas on her blog.

Bye-bye Becki
The event will also be a chance to say ‘au revoir’ to Becki (pictured below with her pXRF spectrometer) as she is now working at Greenwich University in the UK and is resigning as section secretary. However Becki did manage to make a final appearance for RSC Belgium as part of our curling team in December.

Dr Rebecca Beasant Scott – Becki - has been an active member of our section committee, which she joined in 2012, and has acted as section secretary for the past two years.

Born and brought up in Norfolk, Becki had an early interest in archaeology and took a BA in the subject at the University of Wales, Lampeter including a dissertation that focused on an area of south Norfolk that may have been in continuous occupation and use from the Iron Age to today. Joke?

She then took an MA in Cultural Landscape Management at Lampeter, followed by a MSc in Forensic Archaeology and Anthropology at Cranfield University awarded in 2008 for which she won the Inforce Prize for best overall academic performance.

This was followed by a PhD at Cranfield on the investigation and characterisation of colourless glass from forensic and archaeological contexts using multiple interdisciplinary analytical techniques.

A postdoctoral position at KU Leuven brought her to Belgium to research on the use of trace elements to provenance archaeological glass in 2010-2011. Followed by a second post-doc position in Leiden University in The Netherlands. Becki has now returned to the UK where she is employed as an Analytical Geochemist at the University of Greenwich on its Chatham campus.

Curling in Kent

Who knows where England's only curling rink is? We do - it is near Tunbridge Wells in Kent! And on 2 December 2017 a representative team from RSC Belgium went "Curling in Kent" with members of the RSC Kent local section at their annual curling event.

The venue was Fenton's curling rink near Tunbridge Wells in Kent and the RSC team (pictured below) consisted of section chairman Tim Reynolds, recent ex-section secretary Becki Scott (now a resident of Kent), Helen Lee (Mrs Chairman) and two locally recruited 'ringers' (friends of the chairman) Sally Wellsteed and Richard Hucker.

The venue was cunningly concealed deep in the Kentish countryside but was eventually tracked down just in time for a hot lunch of lasagna followed by two hours of curling.

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 aims to return in 2018.

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 offers a unique opportunity for people to give curling a go or just meet up for some fun. And there was very little sliping 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 (pictured left, below), clearly saw the 2017 edition as a great opportunity to practice for the 2018 winter Olympics in South Korea.

This years' 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 members, guests and partners as well as RSC staff member Stephanie Comte from the Networks team in Cambridge (pictured above with Tim Reynolds) and, of course, our Belgian contingent. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Dave and the Kent section are working for the 2018 event that will take place on 8 December 2018 at Fenton's. See you there?

Jessica: our Third Norman Lloyd Scholar

Jessica Powell,  the third recipient of the Dr Norman C. Lloyd Scholarship at Cardiff University, has finished her first year at the university in 2017. Jessica (pictured below), who hails from Llandovery, was interviewed by Cardiff University’s Development and Alumni Relations office at the end of the year.

What degree are you undertaking and why did you choose the course here?
I am currently undertaking a masters in chemistry at Cardiff University, I chose the course here because of the high-level facilities and teaching available.

What’s the best thing about studying at Cardiff?
The best thing about studying in Cardiff is all of the opportunities that are made available to you throughout your degree, which allow you to broaden your knowledge and build skills that will be useful in the future.

Do you have a particular career in mind after you graduate?
After I finish my degree in Cardiff I am hoping to join the army as an officer, where I know that the analytical, problem solving and presentation skills, which I have developed during my degree will be of great use to me. 

What’s was your favourite module during your first year of study?
During my first year of study my favourite module was the foundations of physical chemistry, the module presented the key mathematical and physical background to explain the fundamentals of physical chemistry.

Do you have any hobbies outside of studying?
Outside of studying I play netball for the chemistry netball team in the IMG league, and I also take part in rifle shooting, in which I competed at a national level, representing Wales at a senior level over the summer.

What difference has this scholarship made to you?
The scholarship has allowed me to gain access to a wider range of textbooks and resources which helped me greatly during my first year, and will continue to assist my studies during the remainder of my course.

If you could say something to the donor who gave you this gift, what would it be?
I would like to thank the family of Dr Lloyd and the Royal Society of Chemistry in Belgium for this scholarship, it allowed me to excel in my first year of studying chemistry at Cardiff university, and further allowed me to gain a more in depth knowledge of all aspects of this course. 

We wish Jessica all the best for the future and every success in her future 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. The scholarship is given to new students to the Cardiff School of Chemistry who are of high academic standing and a resident of Wales. The next Norman C Lloyd scholar will be selected in October.

If you would like to donate to the Norman Lloyd scholarship fund follow this link and specify that you wish to donate to the Norman Lloyd Scholarship fund in the comments box

Fourth Norman Lloyd Scholar announced

RSC Belgium is proud to announce that the fourth recipient of the Dr Norman C. Lloyd Scholarship at Cardiff University has been selected and is enjoying their first year at the university. Ffion Cartwright is from Llandovery and started her MCheM degree in Chemistry at the end of September.

Pictured below, Ffion originates from the small village of Mold in North East Wales, but is enjoying living and studying in the Welsh capital. She received the highest A Level scores of her cohort. The scholarship is given to new students to the Cardiff School of Chemistry who are of high academic standing and a resident of Wales.

In a letter thanking the section for sponsoring her award Ffion wrote:

"I would like to thank the Royal Society of Chemistry Belgium and all of Dr Lloyd’s family and friends for awarding me this generous gift.

It is a great honour to now be associated with Dr Lloyd, he had accomplished so many things in his time as a chemist in Barry, Cardiff, Michigan and Brussels. I have been very inspired by his story.
To be awarded this scholarship in his memory has made me feel so proud and has given me even more drive to do well in my degree. So, I intend to use the money on resources and textbooks which will greatly help my studies.

I am originally from a small village in North East Wales so the change to living in a city so far from home has been very daunting, but I have settled in well. I have lived in Wales all my life, so I have a great affinity towards my country, which is the main reason why I chose Cardiff for my place of study. Also, studying in Cardiff has given me the chance to continue my studies of the Welsh language. I have learnt Welsh from a very young age up to A level standard and did not want to lose the opportunity to use the language.

I decided I wanted to pursue a career in chemistry four years ago, as I enjoyed chemistry in school and had been inspired by the life of Marie Curie to study science. My love of chemistry is only growing through my studies and I am enjoying my degree immensely.

I would like to reiterate my thanks to all that have contributed toward the scholarship and those who have chosen me to be receive it, it means a lot to be recognised in this way and I am very grateful for this opportunity."

We all wish Ffion every success in her 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.

If you would like to donate to the Norman Lloyd scholarship fund, please contact the RSC Belgium secretary.