The unique Chemistry Christmas tree

In what by now seems to be an ongoing tradition in the Chemistry department here in Plymouth, for Christmas we made a Chemistree! 

The full story is on the @chemplymuni twitter, however, I wanted to talk a little about the people doing it. This year, (ignoring me, since I gate-crashed the whole proceedings) it was done by the first year students and PALS leaders.

What is PALS, you may ask? Pals stands for Peer Assisted Learning Scheme- a scheme where the first year students have weekly organised sessions with second year students, rather than a lecturer. They aren’t taught sessions- rather, it’s more a chance to have a talk about the course and any specific topics that the first years are struggling with. From my point of view (having seen both sides, being a student in year 1, and one of the leaders in year 2) it’s basically a win all-round. First years get a chance to both talk about the course, units, and any other information useful to them - plus it lets them know people from the year above them who can talk them through work (NOT do it for them!), lectures that were confusing etc. It’s also quite nice for any students who aren’t confident enough to ask lecturers questions in lectures! For the second years (aside from being paid!) it’s a chance to revise a few first year topics and is excellent mentoring experience for the future.  

But what about the tree itself? It was formed with a carefully engineered skeleton made from clamp stands of varying sizes and furnished with baubles made from allsorted glassware, mostly filled with solutions of different pH’s and different indicators, to get the colour differences (though a couple were cheated with food colouring!). Around the base were scattered a few chrismassy chemicals made from molecular modelling parts (ethanol and ethanol, plus a couple of structures of pinene, the chemical reasoning of the pine-tree smell…..).

The centrepiece had to be the “angel” at the top, though- very skilfully assembled from more various glassware! After these pictures were taken, the “wings” were filled up with the solution as well, which was even more impressive!