Department of Chemistry @ UCL


Department of Chemistry,
University College London,
T: +44 (0)20 7679 4623

Location of Department of Chemistry, UCL

Session 140 Spring Schedule

Talks will take place on Tuesdays in the Ramsay Lecture Theatre and will start at 6.15pm. Pre- and post-talk receptions will be in the Nyholm Room as usual, but will start at 5.45pm and 7.15pm respectively.

What is tea? The basics.

Katy Woollard

Tuesday 26 January 2016

We have been consuming tea for over 5,000 years. But have you ever considered where it came from? Can anything be called a tea? Does it all come from the same plant or is there many different plants that make it? Tea is not simply crush leaves, from its humble origins to the largest corporate espionage, tea has changed our world.

For this talk we will cover, What is tea? Where does it come from and can anything be called a tea? We will cover the different types of tea, looking into how each type is made. Followed but a tasting of each. During this time we will talk about how best to make a cup of tea using loose leaf and also the address the argument "Loose Vs Tea Bag!!" We will also cover how tea bough two nations to war, and how because of this we now have one of the best teas in the world!

Katy is a tea specialist and public speaker, based in the UK. In her daily life she trains and mentors staff and customers alike on everything tea, also performing talks to groups both corporate and private.She currently works for a large historical tea company, Whittard of Chelsea, based in London, Est 1886. Previously Katy has worked at R.Twining & Co Ltd and their only shop in the world which was also the first tea shop in England, 216 Strand, London, England. Est 1706. Katy has performed tea tastings for Formula 1 Silverstone, Aspire Hospitality, Compasses Group, The Chinese Ambassadors for Business, Sainsbury’s, Tesco’s, Rubens Hotel, Australia House, Brown Thomas, Barclays, Magazine de Nord, Country Living fair and Hotelympia.Filmed for Google, Excel, Saudi Arabian TV and ESPN.Her tea training has taken her to as far afield as Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland, India and Sri Lanka. She has visited such tea estate as Talawakelle, Pedro, Margaret Hope, Castleton, Badamtam, Thurbo and Okayti Estate. Katy has also been privileged to sit in and watch the tea auctions at J T Thomas – the largest and oldest existing the auctioneers in the world in Kolkata and The Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

Life on the Edge: The New Science of Quantum Biology

Prof. John Joe McFadden

Tuesday 02 February 2016

Quantum mechanics is fundamental to physics and thereby chemistry and so must also be deeply involved in all of the processes of life. However, it has generally been assumed that the weird properties of quantum mechanics, such as coherence, entanglement and quantum tunnelling, are destroyed in large, complex and relatively warm objects by the process of decoherence. However, recent experiments have demonstrated quantum coherence in photosynthesis, quantum tunnelling in enzyme action and evidence for quantum entanglement in bird navigation. These and other areas of quantum biology will be explored in this talk which will address the question: how fundamental are the weird aspects of quantum mechanics to life?

How volcanoes work

Steven Sparks

Tuesday 09 February 2016

Over the last few decades there have been profound changes in understanding how volcanoes work. Some of the factors that have enabled advances in volcanology have been technologically-driven with introduction of novel instrumentation and prodigious increases in computer power and speed. The quality and quantity of data on volcanic eruptions and their products has increased dramatically as have the sophistication of mathematic modelling. This era has seen the development of dynamical models of volcanic processes based on chemical and physical principles combined with measurements of key physical properties, such magma viscosity. A small number of erupting volcanoes have been documented in great detail, such as Mount St Helens and Soufriere Hills, Montserrat, and have had a major influence on progress as natural laboratories to test models, to identify new phenomena and to inform the development of conceptual and mathematical models of volcanism. The scientific environment of a major eruption has promoted multidisciplinary research teams and collaborations, provided the opportunity to collect huge amounts of different kinds of data and facilitated the integration of major relevant disciplines such as applied mathematics, statistics, atmospheric sciences, experimental volcanology, seismology, instrument engineering, remote sensing, geodesy, geochemistry and petrology. In this address I will highlight some emerging new concepts, including the understanding of cyclic volcanism, the nature of magma reservoirs and the role of magmatic fluids in driving volcanism.

Weighing Black Holes

Martin Bureau

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Black holes are now known to lurk at the centre of every galaxy, and to play a major role in the evolution of our universe. However, given their intrinsically small size, how this comes about remains shrouded in mystery. Prof Bureau will thus start with a brief look into the properties of light and the high-tech gadgetry that astronomers use to study the cosmos. He will further uncover the supermassive black holes hiding in galaxy centres, along with their importance for galaxy evolution. The current bag of tricks used to weigh black holes will be outlined, and the spectacular observations of the Milky Way black hole presented. Prof Bureau will then present a new, conceptually simple but powerful method to measure black holes recently developed by his group. This will exploit the new Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the largest ground-based telescope project in existence, for which Europe, North America, and East Asia are all working together. The possibilities are, quite literally, astronomical. Be prepared to weigh your first black hole!


Dr. Suze Kundu

Tuesday 01 March 2016

Details TBC

Life in the Universe: the search for ET

Dr. Louisa Preston

Tuesday 08 March 2016

The search for life in the Universe is one of humanity's last great adventures and we are closer than ever to sending humans to Mars, and other planets and moons in the cosmos, to seek this life out. What are the chances of finding life on Mars, Europa, or Titan and what might it look like? Astrobiologists are trying to figure out where other forms of life might be hiding, how we can find it, and what it might be able to tell us about ourselves and where we came from. This talk will steer you through the search for life in the Universe and explain how we use 'extreme' forms of life on Earth to guide us. We will then discuss the chances of finding intelligent life elsewhere in the Universe, the search for habitable planets in other distant solar systems, and the future for our exploration, and ultimately colonisation, of the cosmos.

Louisa is an Astrobiologist, Planetary Geologist and TED Fellow who spends her time thinking up ways to find life on Mars, and how humanity might one day colonise other planets and moons. She works in environments across the Earth where life is able to survive our planet’s most extreme conditions as analogues for possible extra-terrestrial life forms and habitats. Louisa is also a popular science writer and communicator, currently working on her first book “Goldilocks and the Water Bears: The Search for life in the Universe” for Bloomsbury Sigma. You can follow her on Twitter @LouisaJPreston and through her blog at

‘Science, Gentlemen, is of infinitely more importance to a state than may at first sight appear possible’: The Life and Work of Humphry Davy (1778-1829)

Prof. Frank James

Tuesday 15 March 2016

This talk will trace Davy’s career from provincial obscurity as an apothecary’s apprentice in Penzance, through Superintendent of the Medical Pneumatic Institution in Bristol, to metropolitan fame as Professor of Chemistry at the Royal Institution and later as President of the Royal Society of London. In the course of this trajectory Davy, amongst much else, wrote poetry, discovered the physiological effects of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), systematically researched on electro-chemistry (a term he coined), discovering and naming sodium and potassium in the process, invented the miners’ gauze safety lamp, developed a chemical method of unrolling the papyri excavated at Herculaneum and electro-chemically disabled the Royal Navy. As he appreciated, but tried to play down except when it suited him, much of his work stemmed from immediate practical demands including those of the state which will be a major theme of this illustrated talk.

CPS Annual Presidential Lecture

Dr Tracey Clarke

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Details TBC