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School students 'sample' wine in Chemistry

Tuesday, 01 December 2009


High school students got the chance to analyse wine in the School of Natural Sciences chemistry laboratories during a recent visit, despite being too young to consume it afterwards. Forty upper school Chemistry students from Mater Dei College spent several hours in the chemistry instrument laboratories with ECU staff, analysing various wines using several different instruments. This followed on from some simpler tests they had already done at school, under the guidance of their teacher Ian Robson – an ECU Chemistry graduate.

Senior Lecturer and Undergraduate Chemistry Co-ordinator Mary Boyce organised the visit and came in from study leave for the event. Mary introduced the students to HPLC (High Performance/Pressure Liquid Chromatography) and each group analysed wines for various food acids (citric, malic, tartaric and lactic). Senior Technician Mark Bannister ran sessions on how gas chromatography can be used to measure content of alcohol and other chemicals. Technician and Promotions Officer Nardia Bordas took each group through use of atomic absorption spectrometry to measure metal levels – despite a few technical glitches – and general tours were led by Student Support Officer Yvonne Garwood, Senior Lecturers Glenn Hyndes and Ian Bennett and Lecturer Clint McCullough. Laboratory Manager Clay Millar braved the weather to cook up a fabulous barbecue lunch for everyone, generously provided by the School.

This highly successful visit perfectly complemented the students’ school investigations, while extending their experience to show what can be done at university level. Instrumentation analysis is an accurate reflection of what really goes on in university research, and can be used to showcase chemistry to a more advanced audience than the simpler demonstrations or workshops delivered to middle school visitors.

Ian’s students were delighted with their visit and keen to continue their research - once they’re old enough to truly ‘sample’ the wines, their analysis will be complete!

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