Year 12 and 13 Chemists benefitted from a talk given to them by Magnus Bebbington, a lecturer at Heriot Watts’ School of Engineering & Physical Sciences; Chemical Sciences last week. Magnus’ research is aimed at developing new methods of synthesising one type of molecule where two mirror images are possible. These are known as optical isomers. This branch of chemistry is especially important in the development of drugs, as one mirror image can be beneficial while the other can cause serious problems. The most well documented example being thalidomide.

Magnus’ lecture introduced the topic to our year 12 students in an accessible manner, using Alice Through the Looking Glass as a context. What would looking glass milk taste like? For our year 13 students it was a useful revision session, with additional examples and information to those they had discussed in their usual chemistry lessons. Students were given samples of the two optical isomers of limonene to smell. One is the scent in lemons, the other the scent in oranges.

Magnus was then happy to answer any questions our students had, either about the subject of chirality or about student life, followed by interest in post graduate studies.