Top of the Bench

On Wednesday 10th January, we had the opportunity to travel to Oxford University to participate in the Top of the Bench competition, a challenge designed to put practical and teamwork skills into action whilst inspiring excitement about Chemistry.

We spent the day at the university’s world-renowned laboratory and were able to use advanced equipment, such as a UV-vis spectrophotometer! The challenge required us to use our understanding and knowledge of Chemistry to attempt the challenges set for the key stage higher than ours.

In the morning, we did a separation experiment, with the aim of identifying three unknown compounds (two solids and a liquid). We used infrared radiation to work out the identity of two compounds and an ion test to determine the other.

From the morning to the afternoon, we did titrations to determine the concentration of an unknown compound. Then we compared the results to the concentration of the unknown compound at 355 nm of UV light, using UV-vis-spectroscopy. The rest of our session was filled with determining the concentration in g/dm³, drawing a graph and more experiments to help us find out the unknown compounds.

Finally, Dr Fiona Marston, a guest speaker from the Royal Society of Chemistry came to speak to us. She was a wonderful, engaging speaker who told us about her career journey in biochemistry and how she became the founder and CEO of a company due to her love of science and determination. One of the main points was that the road ahead isn't always clear, and we should stay resilient and motivated.

We were all very lucky to be able to do this challenge and use the amazing equipment they had as it triggered an appreciation of science from all the hard work we did.  Although we didn’t win, it was a lovely experience, and we all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Rauda and Bella - Year 9

Rohamaa and Daphney - Year 10