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Top of the Bench returns to Loughborough University

Young people from across the country came to Loughborough University on Saturday (April 20) to take part in a prestigious national chemistry competition – the second time the campus has hosted the event.

‘Top of the Bench’ is run by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) for 14-16 year-olds.  Its aim is to increase the participation of young people in chemistry and inspire the next generation of scientists.

Schools from across the country took part in the preliminary rounds of the competition, with almost 30 teams from the UK, and even one from Belgium, progressing to the finals.

The finalists had to complete a short factual test of chemical knowledge, followed by two-hours of practical chemical problem-solving team exercises. Whilst at the campus their accompanying teachers also attended presentations from the RSC and Loughborough about university admissions, science courses and RSC support for teachers and schools.  The day concluded with a lecture by Professor Paul Thomas, Head of Loughborough’s Department of Chemistry, about the science of scents and how one day soon our breath and skin chemistry will be the basis of diagnosis.

Prizes were awarded for the best overall performance – the Top of the Bench team – and to five runner-up teams, along with the Jacqui Clee Award, which recognised the most outstanding individual contribution of the day.  They were presented by Loughborough University Vice Chancellor, Professor Robert Allison and Professor Jim Iley, Executive Director for Science and Education at the RSC.

Professor Paul Thomas said: “We are always delighted to host and support this competition, which is a fantastic way of engaging with young scholars about chemistry.  The pupils were impressive and a joy to meet and play host to, and the standard was formidably high.  The event was a great success and all those that took part thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“At Loughborough we are committed to encouraging participation in science, and we believe that there is no better platform for this than the Top of the Bench competition.”

Professor Allison added: “It was an honour for Loughborough to host such an inspiring group of young people – the scientists of tomorrow.”

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