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Student inspired during Work Experience

 Genny BalmerStamford High School student, Genny Balmer, (Y12) discusses the work experience she undertook in the chemistry department of Leicester University.

During the summer holidays, I completed a week of work experience in the atmospheric chemistry department of Leicester University.  Supervised by Dr. Rebecca Cordell, I assisted with a long running research project, investigating air qualities around the world by Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry.

After a safety brief, and a tour around the various laboratories we would be using, we started work straight away preparing the ‘stock’ samples. These would later be used as base references to compare our results to. The preparation of these samples included serial dilution calculations, a method that is not included in the GCSE chemistry syllabus, and performing this using new equipment such as a single channel manual pipette. During the week I also had to use techniques such as sonication (for speed dissolution) and equipment such as a centrifuge to further prepare the samples for analysis.

Dr. Cordell taught me how to set up the computer program to run the GCMS, which included both writing the method, and altering settings to ensure we got the ‘cleanest’ results possible. I was then shown how to export and interpret the data produced, and how to best display them in Excel, producing scatter graphs etc. To complete the above work, I also had to work with new concepts such as skeletal formulae and being able to recognize and then name molecules present.

During my week I also worked in the ‘DDU’ (Diagnostic Development Unit) in the A+E of Leicester Royal Infirmary. This is a new project, combining different departments of Leicester University, to provide quick and non-invasive detection of disease. This is possible using imaging, breath analysis and measurement of body state to provide a quick diagnosis, all of which happen at the same time in one room.

Not only did I learn a lot during my placement, I practiced both theoretical and practical methods; which I expect will help give me a head start when I encounter them in the AS-Level course. It also gave me a great insight into university, working in faculty standard laboratories and experiencing the structure of the department.

Genny Balmer (12KRA)