Sheffield Festival of Science and Engineering: March 2017.

Throughout March the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University celebrated the Sheffield Science and Engineering festival. The festival is a public engagement event where the world-class research performed in the universities in science technology, engineering and maths (STEM) is demonstrated in fun, inspiring ways to the general audience. Events were held around the city to encourage the younger generation to pursue a career in STEM.

The Sheffield Science and Engineering festival is part of the nationwide British Science Week, held between the 10th and 19th of March, which is a nationwide celebration of science.

The chemistry department has contributed to several of these events, the details of some of the events are summarised below.

Monday 6th of March

Rebecca Gibson and Shannon North, postgraduate researchers in Prof. S. Armes research group, visited Sacred Heart Primary school to open Science week by delivering a school assembly for roughly 200 pupils on the role of female scientists.

Tuesday 7th of March: “Journey to the Centre of the Atom”

Dr Tom Anderson gave a lecture titled "Journey to the Centre of the Atom" with assistance from students Dan Reader and Soneni Ndlovu and technician Adam Ford. The lecture explored our changing conception of the atom from the Ancient Greeks to the present day, with plenty of practical demonstrations along the way to illustrate principles like combustion, electronic transitions and the scientific method.

There was a good turnout of over 70 attendees and it is hoped that this has helped raise awareness for other Science Festival events.

Friday 10th of March: Discovery Night

Discovery night at the University of SheffieldOne of the major events was Discovery Night, a night of scientific demonstrations, talks and lectures with plenty of time for hands-on scientific activities for young inspirational scientists. The event returned after the popular reception of the event in 2016, by opening the university to the public.

Three events took place in the evening where chemistry students demonstrated practical chemistry to young students. The first, hosted by Dr Rob Dawson and members of the polymer CDT, showed the wonders of polymers, through the creation of synthetic slime with some hands-on chemistry practicals.

Dr Jo Buckley was also on-hand to show some of the experiments featured in her Edible Experiments repertoire. From finding out why popping doesn't require as many ingredients as you might imagine (and if you'll pop if you eat too much!) to identifying which fruity smells are natural and synthetic, from making your own sherbet to finding out if you have a super sense of taste. For more information on Edible Experiments, visit

Finally, Nobel Prize winning chemistry was shown off by ‘sailing’ tiny molecular powered boats across the surface of water using the power of light.

Tuesday 14th of March: Krebs Lecture

The 2017 Krebs lecture brought Nobel Prize laureate Prof. Sir Fraser Stoddart back to the university, where he taught as a lecturer in chemistry between 1971 and 1990. The lecture he delivered was a snapshot into his lifelong research of self-assembly, that ultimately lead to his award of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2016.

The lecture was just one of many activities which took place on the day, the full details and photos of which can be found through the following link.

Thursday-Friday 30-31st of March: The 24 hour inspire

The 24 hour lecture was back. This annual event was hosted by the charity Inspiration for Life, set up following the loss of two lecturers to cancer. It is designed to celebrate knowledge and learning through 24 hours of lectures between 17:00 on Thursday and 17:00 on Friday.

Three members of the chemistry department were amongst those lecturing. Postgraduate researcher Dan Jenkinson spoke about some of his PhD research into the importance of small molecules. Dr Adrien Chauvet talked about how using laser technology scientists can understand the process of photosynthesis and use nature as a template for future technological advances. Finally, Prof. Tony Ryan spoke about some of his work at the Grantham centre and his experiences visiting refugee camps. He discussed how chemistry can change old mattresses into artificial soil converting infertile ground into farms.

In addition, the department has also hosted several local secondary and primary school students in the department’s schools laboratory. The experiments performed by the students are designed to encourage the younger generation to pursue careers in STEM, with a particular focus on practical chemistry including techniques such as spectroscopy and organic synthesis.

The events could not have been so successful without the help of all the students and ambassadors that helped out on all of the events. Therefore, we would like to thank:
Rebecca Gibson, Shannon North, Dan Jenkinson, Ka Ching Cheung, Dan Reader, Soneni Ndlovu, Alex James, Sian Bach, Rory Mcbride, Brogan Pakey, Theo Keane, Adam Ford, Fiona Revell, Anthony Choi, Deborah Beattie, Jamie Blakeman, Craig Jesson, Tom Franklin, Bryony Parker and everyone else involved.

Written By:
Joe Clarke

With thanks to Dr Sara Bacon, Dr Jo Buckley, Dr Tom Anderson for their help and contributions.