Chemistry taster day

This experience day at the University of Sheffield gives A Level chemists a taste of what it’s like to study chemistry at university.

Chemistry taster day

Be a chemistry student for the day: Aspirin Synthesis

A free taster day for  Y12 students studying A Level Chemistry with an interest in studying Chemistry at university.

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When: Monday 16 March 2020, 9.45am-4pm

            Friday 17 April 2020, 9.45am-4pm

Location: Department of Chemistry, Dainton Building, University of Sheffield, S3 7HF

Places available: 18

About the day

In the morning you'll be working in the chemistry lab, undertaking practical work to synthesise aspirin. You’ll be working with one of our staff members and some of our current students, using equipment and facilities not usually available in schools and colleges.

You'll prepare your own aspirin sample using a number of key chemistry techniques including reflux synthesis using quick fit apparatus, separation by vacuum filtration and recrystallisation to purify your product.

After lunch, you will work with some of our dedicated analytical services staff members to characterise your aspirin samples using infrared (IR) spectroscopy, mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy.

Following this, there will be a chance for you to find out more about being a science student at the University of Sheffield in a Q&A session with some of our current undergraduate students. A member of our Department of Chemistry admissions team will also be on hand to answer any queries you might have about studying chemistry at university.

The history of aspirin

Aspirin is one of the most widely sold medicines in the world, being used to treat pain and inflammation, and to prevent and treat heart attacks. The active ingredient, salicylic acid, is found in the bark of willow trees and was used to treat health problems as far back as ca. 3000-1500 BC. 

In the 1800s, salicylic acid was identified, extracted, and its chemical structure determined. In 1897, Felix Hoffman, a chemist working for the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, found that esterifying salicylic acid to produce acetylsalicylic acid reduced the irritant properties of the drug. The company patented the commercial production of acetylsalicylic acid and named it ‘aspirin’.


Time Activity
9.45am-10.15am Arrivals and registration
10.15am-10.30am Welcome and introduction to the University
10.30am-1pm Preparation of aspirin
1pm-1.45pm Lunch, with optional campus tour
1.45pm-3.15pm Analysis of aspirin workshop
3.15pm-3.45pm 'Being a science student' – Q+A
3.45pm-4pm Wrap-up, evaluations and depart

Travel information

The easiest way to travel to campus from Sheffield train station is by tram. Trams regularly run between Sheffield railway station and the University of Sheffield tram stop, from which it is a five-minute walk to the department. For those arriving by car, Durham Road Q Park is the nearest car park to campus.

For informal enquiries please email


Jessop West

Undergraduate scholarships

We have a range of undergraduate scholarships available to fund talented students starting an undergraduate course in 2020.