Professor John R. Dean gives his congratulations to the winners of the 2016 Schools’ Analyst competition and thanks all those who helped to organise the successful event

The final of the national Schools’ Analyst competition was held on the 20 / 21 June 2016 at Keele University. All attendees were welcomed to the competition by the Deputy Vice Chancellor & Provost Prof. Mark Ormerod. The university offers a range of successful degree programmes in Chemistry (BSc(H) and MChem) as well as a MSc in Analytical Science for Industry. For this year’s final, Dr Dave McGarvey acted as the host however the majority of the planning and organisation was done by Chloe Howe. Chloe and Dave devised a programme of experiments around a soft drink theme. The teams had to carry out three experiments: determination of the concentration of two artificial food colourings in the soft drink using UV-visible spectroscopy; determination of caffeine concentration by solid phase extraction - high performance liquid chromatography; and estimate the sugar content of the soft drink by density measurements. While the judging was taking place, the teams and accompanying teachers, were entertained by Dr Graeme Jones with a lecture entitled “Saturday Night Science”. 

The winning team of Year 12 students came from Hymers College, previous winners in 2003, representing the North East Region of the Analytical Division. Figure 1 shows the winning team comprising Rhea Harrison, Beinn Khulusi and Laszlo Karsai accompanied by their teachers Gordon Prescott and Rachel Bennett with the local organiser (Dr Dave McGarvey) and Prof. John R. Dean (on behalf of the RSC/AD and ACTF).

Schools' Analyst finalists 2016

Figure 1: The winning team comprising Rhea Harrison, Beinn Khulusi and Laszlo Karsai accompanied by their teachers Gordon Prescott and Rachel Bennett with the local organiser (Dr Dave McGarvey) and Prof. John R. Dean (on behalf of the RSC/AD and ACTF)

The school received a prize of £1000 together with Amazon vouchers of £50 to each of the three team members. The school was presented with an engraved glass trophy on behalf of the sponsors the Analytical Chemistry Trust Fund.

The runners-up were the team from the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle, representing the North East Region. The school received £600 with the team members receiving £30 vouchers each. The team coming third was Truro College, representing the Western Region, and they received £300 and £20 vouchers to each of the team members. The judges for this year’s competition were Dr Dave McGarvey, Dr Mike Edwards and Dr Laura Hancock and Prof. John R. Dean (on behalf of the Royal Society of Chemistry Analytical Division), who also chaired the judging panel and awarded the prizes.

On behalf of the Royal Society of Chemistry Analytical Division I would like to thank the university for agreeing to host the competition and for providing an excellent venue with facilities that show case analytical chemistry. In particular, I would like to thank staff at Keele for their organization of the final, specifically, Chloe Howe, Dave McGarvey, Lisa Blackburn, John Clews, Dennis Cooper, Mike Edwards, Emma Garrett, Matt Goodwin, Neil Grazier, Laura Hancock, Nicola Jervis, Graeme Jones, Leanne Jones, Elaine McFarlane, Julie Street and Kris Wisniewski for making the whole event memorable for each of the 19 teams who attended. A special thanks to members of the RSC Education Department, specifically James Sudlow and Selina Kermode, who both held workshops with the visiting teachers during the competition. 

The competition is sponsored by the Analytical Chemistry Trust Fund, however during the 20 heats in which 257 schools participated throughout the UK, many other organisations also provided financial sponsorship to support this national event. Without their help, the costs involved would be too prohibitive and some heats may not have been feasible. To all of the sponsors, the Analytical Division expresses its gratitude. The regional organisers consistently receive a range of complementary comments from schools who participated, saying how much their teams enjoyed the experience. So if you would like to get involved please contact your local Analytical Division Committee to find out more about where the heats are held in your region.

I would like to thank all the Analytical Division Regions for participating in this year’s competition in this flagship event of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Also, without the agreement of the universities to allow us to use their premises, the enthusiasm of the staff, both academic and technical, to develop and validate experiments and the additional help provided by the administrative staff in these universities, the competition would not exist. 

Thank you to all the 257 schools’ who have participated this year, the 771 Year 12 students for their enthusiasm in actively engaging in analytical chemistry, and the teachers who have supported their students in attending the competition. I hope that some of the Year 12 students who participated in the competition, during the heats and the final, will have been enthused by their experiences to go on to study chemistry at university, and maybe choose analytical science as a career. 

Finally, heats of the competition start again in early 2017 through each of the Analytical Division Regions and will culminate in the final which will be held at Sussex University on Wednesday 21 & Thursday 22 June 2017.