Chemistry students at Space Studio West London had the opportunity to study the intricacies of spectroscopy, with help from some of the most intellectual minds currently studying the subject at an undergraduate level.

The session, run by the Royal Society of Chemistry, involved three final-year undergraduate Chemistry students from University College London (UCL) coming in to Space Studio to deliver an illuminating ‘Spectroscopy in a Suitcase’ workshop to a group of year 12 students.

Many of the students at Space Studio West London aspire to be the chemists, physicists, mathematicians, engineers, data scientists and astronauts of the future.

The school is part of the Aspirations Academies Trust and aims to prepare students for the careers and society of the future and adopts a teaching style that corresponds with that forward-thinking approach.

Asyha, 16, studying for her A-Levels in Chemistry, Biology and Psychology, said that the workshop was particularly illuminating for her because she identifies herself as a “visual learner”, so being able to handle the experiment herself gave her “a better understanding of spectroscopy, and stimulated [her] interest in potentially undertaking a chemistry-based degree” when she applies for university next year.

The students were able to practice measuring these spectral components on a real spectrometer, as the workshop organisers from UCL kindly brought one with them, to develop the students understanding of the process using a hands-on physical experiment.

Infrared spectroscopy can be used for quality control in chemical manufacturing, drug testing, forensic science investigation and even art restoration.

It is conducted using a spectrometer, which is used to take in light, break it into its spectral components, digitize the signal as a function of wavelength, and read it out and display it through a computer. 

Another student Erikas, who hopes to become a motorsport engineer, agrees that the workshop was enchanting, as he believed that “practical work is much more engaging from an engineering perspective.”

During group work exercises, the students had the opportunity to talk and engage with the undergraduates to benefit from their life wisdom as well.

Munasar, 16, who hopes to study biomedicine at university, spoke with the students delivering the workshop to gain some advice regarding applying for university and student life in general, which was hugely beneficial for him as he begins to start thinking about which universities he would like to apply to.

The ‘Spectroscopy in a Suitcase’ workshop was an academically stimulating experience, while the students also benefitted from hands-on, engaging practical experiments, and discussions with students further in their academic careers than themselves, which is encouraging for year 12 students who hope to further their studies in institutions as prestigious as UCL.