Chemistry students given a taste of university research during twilight lab sessions

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A-Level students at Richard Taunton Sixth Form College put their science skills to the test when they were invited to take part in a university’s Twilight Chemistry session.

Nine students from the Hill Lane college in Southampton were given a glimpse of life as undergraduate students at Southampton University when they took part in a session led by Professor David Read.

Students from the university were on hand to help them with the experiments, including extracting the natural chemical trimyristin from nutmeg, and answer questions about life on campus.

Richard Taunton chemistry teacher Rachel Powell said the evening was aimed at pupils who may want to go on to university to study chemistry. “It gave them really good hands-on experience of what it’s like to study there and was a chance for them to work in a university lab with some more specialised equipment,” she said.

“They were doing the sort of practical experiments they would be doing at university and it ties in very usefully with the second year of the A Level course where they are doing some work on their own.”

She said the window on student life will have been a first for some of the pupils. “A lot of our students will be the first generation in their family to go to university so to have the chance to talk to students informally about life there was really useful,” she said.

As they begin their second year here they will be working on their personal statements and UCAS applications so it’s a key time for them to start getting a clear idea of what they want to do next.

She said she was proud of the application the students showed during the evening. “I think they got a lot out of it and they certainly did us proud,” she said. “They did everything they were supposed to do and behaved perfectly so they were a credit to the college.”

Ms Powell said the visit was also a chance for her to catch up with the university and developments there to ensure she gives her students the best advice about their next steps in education. “We heard about a degree in chemical engineering they have recently started so it is always useful information to feed back to our students,” she said.

Find out more about science courses on offer here.