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Oxfordshire Youth Chemistry Conference: The Elements of Everything

15th November 2019

On 14th November Wychwood hosted the Inaugural Oxfordshire Youth Chemistry Conference. This was an opportunity for students to give a talk, exhibit a poster or submit a paper on a chemical element of their choice. Funding for the event came from an outreach grant from the Royal Society of Chemistry. The conference provided the students with an excellent opportunity to experience an academic style conference in which they themselves were the academics.

As well as the many student speakers we were also pleased to welcome scientists from the UK Atomic Energy Agency, The University of Oxford Chemistry Department, Science Oxford and the Faraday Institute who delivered inspirational chemical talks and answered questions from the student audience. Not only did this provide a platform for illuminating ideas about current chemistry and its importance in our society, but also an opportunity for the students to hear about scientific careers first hand.

The students speakers themselves were practised, prepared and informed. They spoke with confidence and much thought went into how the information about their chosen element would be effectively communicated to the audience. One particularly effective speaker chose to investigate the thought experiment “What if Iron Man’s Suit really was made of Iron?” and another brought out samples of bismuth crystals she had created herself to pass round the audience. Some talks focused on a very specific feature of an element such as the talk on fluorine which discussed how the knowledge of this element had contributed to the development of dentistry or the talk on cobalt which focussed on its application in art and art history to blue pigments.

Staff, visitors and students from participating schools agreed that this is something they would like to see developed and grown in coming years so next year we will open the event to every secondary school in Oxfordshire. We hope the Oxfordshire Youth Chemistry Conference therefore will become an annual event. The date has been set for next year’s conference – 19th November 2020 and the topic for discussion and presentation will be “Climate Chemistry”. Interest so far has been promising. As an additional feature we also plan to have a team of student editors drawn from a variety of schools to peer review and edit the papers submitted for the conference proceedings. This is an important scientific principle students need to learn about, but something they rarely have a chance to do beyond peer assessment in the classroom.

We are very much looking forward to next year.

Save the Date
Oxfordshire Youth Chemistry Conference 2020
19th November, Wychwood School
Climate Chemistry