School of Chemistry

International Year of Chemistry

The International Year of Chemistry 2011 will celebrate the achievements of chemistry and its contributions to the well-being of humankind.

As part of the International Year of Chemistry, The School of Chemistry at The University of Nottingham is presenting a series of public lectures.

17 Feb – Martyn Poliakoff “Can Chemistry Be Green?”

Modern society relies on the products of the chemical industry but current methods of production are becoming increasingly less sustainable.  This talk will outline how chemists are responding to the challenge and describe how Nottingham chemists are beginning to take these ideas to Africa.  The talk ends, somewhat provocatively, with a suggestion of what the role of government should be in this area.

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17 Mar – Mick Cooper “Mass Spectrometry: From Avogadro to Zeptomole”

A mass spectrometer is a scientific instrument capable of measuring mass to a precision of one part in a billion, when dealing with the mass of an atom, but additionally providing extremely accurate measurements when dealing with ever larger molecules, such as DNA fragments, all on the basis of minuscule amounts of material. They have become increasingly used in a wide range of scientific applications, from the furthest reaches of the solar system to the smallest constituents of the atom. I'll be providing a whirlwind tour of these indispensable instruments, hopefully with a few live demonstrations on the way.

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14 Apr – Ross Denton “How To Form Chemical Bonds and Build Molecules”

This lecture will be about making molecules and the field of "synthetic chemistry". Since its birth over one hundred years ago the field of synthetic chemistry has had an enormous impact on humanity: our lives have been changed and extended because of important molecules such as antibiotics and anticancer agents that have been made available by synthesis chemists. During the lecture the science of how to make complex molecules from simple commodity chemicals in the laboratory will be discussed from the origins of the field in the nineteenth century to the cutting-edge research topics of the present day, many of which are being developed here at Nottingham. Since most medicines are derived from, or inspired by, naturally occurring molecules we will examine the chemistry and stories behind some natural products such as penicillin, taxol and vancomycin that have changed the world.

12 May – Peter Sarre “Astrochemistry: Spaced-out molecules!”

In this lecture I am going to talk about amazing chemistry in space - chemistry that happens in clouds of gas and dust that lie between the stars. These molecular clouds are trillions of miles from end to end and with enough material to create up to a million Suns. Conditions are extreme - atoms and molecules are well spaced-out, cold, and hit by cosmic rays. How do we know molecules are there? What telescopes can be used? How can chemical reactions take place when it is so cold? How does interstellar chemistry link with the chemistry of planets?

9 Jun – Tony Stace “Clusters: Physics and Chemistry in a Finite World”

Clusters consisting of finite numbers (10-10000) of atoms and molecules are studied in the gas phase in order to understand the connection between the properties of a single species, for example an atom, and how that same substance behaves as a bulk material. Examples of the types of questions we might want to answer are: how many copper atoms does it take to make a piece of copper wire or how many water molecules do you need to dissolve common salt (sodium chloride)?  Modern experiments are capable of giving answers to these and many more questions on how the physical properties of substances evolve as a function their size.

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14 Jul - Debbie Kays "Why do Chemists Want to Make New Molecules?"

From the development of the latest rocket fuels to the toothpaste we use daily, synthetic inorganic chemistry has a wide ranging impact on our everyday lives. Inorganic chemists are constantly pushing the boundaries of our understanding of chemical bonding, and the continued exploration of this area helps to provide the foundation upon which many of the latest technological breakthroughs are made. Through this talk we’ll explore why the study of chemical bonding and the development of new molecules is important. We’ll also explore some of the latest breakthroughs in synthetic chemistry, such as new medicines and diagnostics, environmentally friendly explosives, the latest digital technologies and how advances in analytical techniques will allow us to see chemical bonding in action.

8 Sep - Robert Jones "Reflections on the Surface of Reality"

Reality is made of surfaces. We see, touch, taste, smell and hear via surfaces. In this lecture we will see how surfaces are everywhere and how the chemistry of surfaces affects our lives, from the rainbow colours of bubbles to the megaton production of fertilisers, from milk to rust, from catalytic converters to non-stick frying pans, and from computer chips to nanoscience.

13 Oct – Dave Alker (Chemistry Recruitment and Training Consultant, formerly of Pfizer Ltd) “The Role of Chemists in the Discovery of New Medicines”.

This lecture aims to illustrate how the field of medicinal chemistry has led and will continue to lead to the discovery of new medicines which impact millions of lives worldwide. Using specific examples, a description will be given of the processes involved in taking the knowledge of a of modern day disease mechanism (such as cancer, AIDS etc.), and applying problem-solving techniques to design molecules to interact with specific biological targets, thereby saving lives and improving the quality of life. This talk will highlight how diverse technologies (such as robotics used originally in the car industry and supercomputers) and ground-breaking discoveries in other scientific fields (biology, analytics, formulation, large-scale chemistry, engineering) are co-ordinated in the design of new therapeutic agents, with the emphasis being on how chemistry is the core science which makes this possible.

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10 Nov - Simon Puttick “Nuclear Magnetic Resonance: Structure Determination from Buckyballs to Brains!”

Have you ever wondered what makes the perfect cup of tea?  Or a really great ice cream?  Or even how to take a picture of your brain?!  Nuclear magnetic resonance techniques can provide insight into all of these areas.  In this lecture I will give a basic introduction to nuclear magnetic resonance techniques and their uses in modern science with the aid of some less than conventional applications!

15 Dec - June McCombie "Gastronomy and Molecules: Would you let a chemist cook your Xmas dinner?"

Cooking is frequently referred to as an art form but without (sometimes) being aware of it we carry out a number of science experiments when we prepare food.  On the other side of the omelette  there is a lot of useful cooking equipment in a chemistry laboratory.  In this talk we will  look at some traditional cooking chemicals and some modern industrial chemicals, talk about calibrating your cooking instruments, see if we can use the Smell + Taste = Flavour equation to improve the Xmas dinner and answer the seasonal question - Does alcohol ‘burn off’ in cooking?

No admission charge and no booking required!

A link to the University Park campus map and directions can be found here


6 - 7 pm


Lecture Theatre X1, School of Chemistry, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD.


School of Chemistry

University Park Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3500
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3555
email: chemistry-enquiries@nottingham.ac.uk