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Young scientists shine at the University of Derby

Top of the Bench winners

Fluorescent ‘jelly brains’ and glow-in-the-dark peppermint tea lit up the regional final of a national chemistry competition held at the University of Derby.

The University’s highly-equipped science labs played host to Top of the Bench – a competition that recognises and encourages budding young chemists.

Nottingham High School was victorious and will go on to represent the East Midlands region in the final of Top of the Bench, run by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), London, for 14 to 16 year-old pupils.

The school was judged ahead of nine other teams from various schools – winning by a single point in the competition – which this year had a Doctor Who theme.

Samantha Drake, lecturer in Forensic Chemistry at the University of Derby, helped organise the competition.

She said: “All the teams performed extremely well and I was highly impressed by their knowledge and enthusiasm for science.

“They all took part in a chemistry quiz before doing a Doctor Who-themed practical challenge. Pupils had to show how they would get the Tardis’ cooling system down to a specific temperature using only the chemicals provided.

“The demonstration I did for the pupils was themed ‘light and dark’. It included making peppermint tea glow in the dark, growing colourful crystals, making a boiling tube ‘disappear’ and showing a fluorescent edible jelly in the shape of a brain; which was available for people to try at lunch.

“It was a pleasure to host the regional final of this event and congratulations to Nottingham High School.”

The University’s Forensic Imaging senior lecturer, David Bryson, also showcased some of his fluorescent ‘everyday’ objects.

Teams of pupils from St Mary’s RC High School in Chesterfield, Lady Manners School in Bakewell, Derby High School, Leicester, Loughborough and Boston Grammar Schools, Stamford School, Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Alford, plus a team made up of pupils from John Cleveland College, Redmoor Academy and Hastings High School (all Hinckley), took part in the regional final, on Saturday (January 18).

Professor Paul Lynch, head of Biological & Forensic Sciences at the University, presented the certificates and prizes.

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