Department of Chemistry @ UCL


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

Location of Department of Chemistry, UCL

Session 139 Spring Schedule

Please note: talk timings and locations have (slightly) changed this term.  Talks will take place on Mondays 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.

Two Departmental Characters

Alexander Williamson and Kathleen Lonsdale

Prof. Alwyn Davies, UCL Chemistry

Monday 12 January 2015

These two departmental characters are as well known for their work outside the department as within it: Alexander Williamson discovered the reaction which bears his name, but is revered in Japan for his fundamental contribution in transforming the country from an enclosed feudal state into an open parliamentary democracy; whilst Kathleen Lonsdale was a pioneer of crystallography by was also a Quaker who was prepared to go to jail during the war for her pacifist principles. She later was made a Dame of the British Empire and became a prison visitor.

This talk will briefly sketch the founding and growth of the UCL Chemistry department, then the careers of these two personalities described against that background.

Women in Science

What has chemistry ever done for me?

Prof. Lesley Yellowlees, RSC Past President

Monday 19 January 2015

As the first, and still the only, woman president of the Royal Society of Chemistry in its 171 year history, Prof. Yellowlees is passionate about inspiring and increasing the numbers of women studying and working in the sciences.  The majority of women with qualifications in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects, however, do not work in STEM areas, in significant contrast to men: this phenomenon is known as the ‘leaky pipeline’ and has significant implications for skills shortages in STEM areas.  

Prof. Yellowlees’s talk will feature statistics, observations and recollections as she reflects on the positive and negative aspects of her career as a woman in chemistry.

Terra Rara

The Elementary Unknown Sea

Prof. Andrea Sella, UCL Chemistry

Monday 26 January 2015

The rare earth elements made an unexpected appearance in the international news between 2010 and 2013 and featured prominently in discussions of international geopolitics. How could fourteen elements that most people have never heard of be so important? And why are they no longer newsworthy now? This is the story of the rare earths, of why they were so hard to discover, and why they are so important in our world; it is a cautionary tale about the perils of not backing up your data and of thinking you can get rich quick.

The Role of Chemists in the Discovery of New Medicines

Dr Dave Alker

Monday 2 February 2015

The field of medicinal chemistry has led and will continue to lead to the discovery of new medicines which impact millions of lives worldwide. Using specific examples, a description will be given of the processes involved in taking the knowledge of a of modern day disease mechanism (such as AIDS), and applying problem-solving techniques to design molecules which interact with specific biological targets, thereby saving lives and improving the quality of life. This talk will highlight how diverse technologies (such as robotics used originally in the car industry and supercomputers) and ground-breaking discoveries in other scientific fields such as biology and engineering, are co-ordinated in the design of new therapeutic agents, with the emphasis being on how chemistry is the core science which makes this possible.

Dead or Alive? - airborne particles

Dr Fred Parrett, Parrett Technical Developments

Monday 9 February 2015

After an early academic career in the UK and Canada, Dr. Fred Parrett started a consultancy business which included working on chemical methods of dust control and dust monitoring, and latterly airborne bacteria. Airborne particles can be alive (bioaerosols) or dead (dust): the latter can arise from natural sources or be man-made. 

This lecture will outline the sources, health implications, monitoring and control of dust. It was this work that lead to the company developing and manufacturing bio-aerosol samplers. Compared to "dust”, bio-aerosols, the terms for airborne viruses, bacteria, moulds etc are more complex, in that their monitoring and control are more difficult. Due to this the topic is often ignored, even by microbiologists.

From the Western Front to Field Hospital Camp Bastion

Modern military medical organisation and its origins in the Great War

Dr Emily Mayhew and Major Daffyd Edwards

Monday 23 February 2014

Major Daffyd Edwards and Dr Emily Mayhew will outline the remarkable achievements made by medical staff of all trades on the Western Front, and how the system they created in the 20th century remains fundamental to the military medical organisation for Britain's conflicts in the 21st century. 

Prof. Susan Hallam

Monday 3 March 2015

Research from neuroscience, psychology and education can help us understand how music can impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children. Musical training can contribute to enhanced verbal memory, language skills and enhanced literacy; as well as spatial skills and to some elements of mathematical performance. This means musicians perform better in general academic attainment than might be expected based on their measured intelligence.

The Perfect Theory

Einstein's general theory of relativity in the 21st century

Prof. Pedro Ferreira

Monday 9 March 2015

Einstein's general theory of relativity is one of the greatest achievements of modern thoughts.

This talk will describe its complicated history, some of the characters who developed it and will try to convince you that something fantastic is bound to happen in the next few years.

Invisibility: a Cultural History

Philip Ball

Monday 16 March 2015

Scientists have today worked out how to manipulate the path of light rays so as to render objects invisible. This is sometimes said to be the realization of an old dream; but the stories that we have told about invisibility are not stories of a technical capability but of power, desire, concealment, morality and corruption. What are these old tales of invisibility really saying, and how has the scientific understanding of light influenced them? From a history of invisibility that encompasses Plato, magic, spiritualism and Victorian physics, H. G. Wells, cinematography and the emerging new science of metamaterials, this talk will show that ideas of invisibility are, like all ideas rooted in legend, ultimately parables about our own hopes and fears.

That's not my Nanobot

Is nanotechnology living up to the hype?

Dr Matt Blunt, UCL Chemistry

Monday 23 March 2015

From Richard Feynman's seminal lecture in 1959 to the 'Grey Goo' of doomsday scenarios nanotechnology became one of the most hyped scientific ideas of the late 20th century. Now, more than a decade into the 21st century, has this hype transformed into the revolutionary new technologies we were promised, or do we still have a long way to go. This talk will touch on everything from using a scanning probe microscope to build structures atom-by-atom to how nanotechnology is portrayed in popular cultural. Finally, it will try to answer the most important question of all: where's my Nanobot?