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Student for a Day – Chemistry / Chemical Engineering

20 November 2014

Thursday 13 November saw the first ‘Student for a Day’ event of the academic year at the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, this time in Chemistry / Chemical Engineering. Here is a report.

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Photo Science LinX

Around 35 final-year pupils from pre-university schools across the country participated, from the Zernike College in Haren to the Krimpenerwaard College in Krimpen aan den IJssel. Following an introduction to studying Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and a lecture by Dr Edwin Otten , another lecture was given by Prof. Erik Heeres .

Heeres told the prospective students how he had begun his own studies in Chemistry in exactly the same hall, back in 1982. After graduating, he worked for several employers, including Shell, before returning to the University in 2000. His industry experience makes him particularly well-suited to lecturing in Chemical Engineering, which requires him to draw links between fundamental research and industry.

In his lecture he explained not only why biomass should be used more as an energy source, but also how this energy is obtained. He also demonstrated how the pyrolysis principle works. After the lectures, the prospective students had a much-needed lunch, before getting started on the practical!

The pupils had to change and get on their lab coats and safety glasses, which they did after getting over some initial reluctance. Inside, the group was divided across two labs. Chemistry student Loes, leading the practicals, caught everybody’s attention. ‘We’re going to be synthesising luminol . Who knows what that is?’ One girl answered enthusiastically that it can be used to make small amounts of blood glow in crime scene investigations.

Photo Science LinX
Photo Science LinX

After a brief instruction in using the fume cupboard (‘assemble everything in the cupboard, not on the workbenches’), sensible separation of waste and the use of gloves, the pupils began to assemble their apparatus. Students checked the apparatus before the pupils started working with actual chemicals.

One group got a long way, while another had difficulty getting beyond the instructions on paper, but everyone knuckled down to work. There was little chit-chat and mainly questions like ‘Where’s the sand?’, ‘Where can I find syringes?’, ‘Is this right?’ and ‘Hey, you’ve got a completely different beaker from me!’

The day concluded with another seminar to give them a good idea of what you actually do as a student, followed by drinks. Soft drinks, that is. That provided another opportunity to ask questions to the student guides.

In a change from previous years, this year’s Student for a Day events are to be held in English for international Bachelor’s degree programmes, giving the students an idea of how it is to study in the language.
But, in the words of one participant, ‘It’s no problem. I’m good at English, after all’.

More information about Student for a Day and other information activities can be found on the University of Groningen’s website . Information about Bachelor’s degree programmes in the sciences can be found on the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences’ webpage.

Report: Tanja van der Woude

Last modified:29 September 2017 2.29 p.m.
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