University of Leicester eBulletin

The Magic of Chemistry: 'Professor Dumbledore' and 'Harry Potter' Inspire Demonstrations 

June 2003
No 174

When Harry Potter has finished at Hogwarts and learned all they can teach him about magic wands, transforming toads and screaming mandrake roots, he could do worse than study Chemistry at university.

In a series of demonstrations for local school students the University of Leicester Chemistry Department showed them just how magic Chemistry can be! Part of the programme of activities included demonstration lectures with a Harry Potter theme.

From June 24 to June 27, Dr Paul Jenkins and Dr Jonathan Woodward ran two demonstration lectures daily with a Harry Potter theme for more than 800 Leicestershire school students.

All schools in the area were invited to send their year six pupils to this exciting display of ‘Amazing Energy,’ sponsored by AstraZeneca and the Royal Society of Chemistry. They took part in a series of demonstration experiments designed to show how energy is transformed from one form to another. Miraculously transformed into Professor Dumbledore and Harry Potter, the demonstrators showed that while their experiments may not be magic the results can certainly be magical.

Dr Jenkins explained: “Every child has magical powers of understanding if their interest can be stimulated. We demonstrated how forms of energy can all be traced back to the sun, and all we do in life to obtain energy is to inter-convert its different forms. We used the fantastic popularity of Harry Potter to help us in this activity.

“Young students at the year six level are bursting with inquisitive questions about the world and how it works. They are full of energy themselves and we believed that the theme of energy would be of interest to the pupils. We used the Harry Potter theme to help us convey and explain our ideas about energy.”

Day highlights variety of careers open to Chemistry graduates

On June 24 and 25 the Chemistry Department also organised activities for more than 100 local year-12 students. This followed the huge success of a smaller-scale event held last year.

The day started with a talk on Chemistry in the New Millennium and highlighted the variety of careers that are open to chemistry graduates. In a practical session groups of four students took part in two half-hour experiments, with a range of eight exciting activities, from seeing atoms with the tip of a needle to the chemistry of colours.

A pharmaceutical business game followed lunch, in which student groups formed companies to make, with the aid of molecular models, and to market a new pharmaceutical product. Each team also had to create and present a poster as part of this session, which highlighted the diverse skills required by chemists in industry, and proved that there is still a lot of work to be carried out after an initial scientific discovery.

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Information supplied by: Barbara Whiteman
Last updated: June 2003
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