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Education of a Chemist: Air Pollution

Chemistry Professor Andrea Sella gives students projects which will solve real world problems.

Photograph of Andrea Sella

19 November 2019

There is a wide variety of sustainability teaching and learning happening across UCL, with teaching staff integrating sustainability into a whole host of degree programmes.

The longstanding problem with a lot of practical experiments: is they often seem a pointless chore. Everyone does the same thing, gets essentially the same result, typically knows what the answer is “supposed to be” in advance.

Professor Andrea Sella’s project gave a group of 1st year undergraduates the task of applying chemistry to real world situations, measuring air pollution near to local primary schools in London. Students were asked to make diffusion tubes to capture the nitrogen dioxide in the air. They visited primary schools to talk about air pollution and ask the pupils where they should site the air pollution sensors. Four weeks later, the students measured the NO2 content and presented back to primary school pupils. The project really opened the students’ eyes to research, teaching and environmental issues.