Monday, 12 December 2011

Belgium TOTB Result

RSC Belgium held its Belgian heat for the annual RSC Top of the Bench (TOTB) competition on Saturday 10 December at the British School of Brussels (BSB). It was a close competition between teams from BSB, St Johns International School and the European School II at Woluwe with a team from Woluwe edging the final result.

This was the first time RSC Belgium's TOTB eliminator was an actual 'head-to-head' competition. The five teams of budding chemists (two from Woluwe, two from BSB and one from St. Johns) had to complete a short written test on their individual chemical knowledge and data interpretation skils and then show teamwork and problem-solving abilities in a practical chemical exercise.

This format more closely reflects the format of the competition that the winners will face at the final to be held at Imperial College London on 31 March 2012. Rita Woodward devised the competition and set the questions.

Close competition
All five teams consisted of four students aged 14 - 16 and were accompanied by teachers. The practical aspect of the competition involved the reaction of sodium thiosulfate and hydrochloric acid. The teams had to determine the correct amount and molarity of solutions so that the reaction completed in exactly 2 minutes and 28 seconds. The reaction was said to be completed when a black cross placed under the reaction flask was no longer visible.

When teams had worked out their own solution, their eforts were timed by judges Prof. Bob Crichton and Dr. Ian Carson. Each team had up to two official 'timed' attempts.

The overall winners were determined by their placing in both written and practical parts of the 'eliminator'.

Although the result was tight the winning team and runners-up both came from Woluwe European School. The winning teams are pictured above, together with proud Woluwe chemistry teacher Julie Deegan. The school will now represent Belgium in the (inter)national final in London and receive the section's Keith Price Cup for 2012. All the students who took part in the competition will also receive certificates.

Everyone who took part in the competition had an enjoyable time with both students and teachers very enthusiastic about the new format. RSC Belgium looks forward to an even bigger and better Belgian TOTB eliminator next year.

Our thanks to all the teachers and students who took part in a fun afternoon of chemistry!

Friday, 9 December 2011

IYC Experiment at G4G Two

On Saturday, 26 November 2011, RSC Belgium was part of a very successful second annual GreenlightforGirls event at the International School of Brussels (ISB) . The RSC Belgium team held four lab workshops in three languages featuring two parts of the International Year of Chemistry (IYC 2011) Global Water experiment.

Over 250 schoolgirls from Brussels descended on the ISB for the second annual Greenlight@Brussels Day: an event that promotes science, technology engineering and mathematics ("STEM") to 11-15 year old girls. The RSC Belgium workshop was one of over over 100 hands-on workshops run by role-model scientists, engineers and technology experts, and a Fun Lab full of the latest high-tech gadgetry and science experiments, attendees were exposed to a wide array of exciting activities to inspire them to pursue technical studies and careers. The event was and official part of EU Robotics Week and the International Year of Chemistry 2011.

The RSC Belgium's four hour-long workshops involved the girls getting to grips with the IYC 2011 experiments on the 'pH of water' and how bugs and bacteria are eliminated from our drinking water. The results were added to the IYC 2011 global database of results.

Excellent impact
A follow-up survey to the event showed that it had a very positive impact with 94% of girls who attended saying that the event had encouraged them to pursue science subjects - including some who are not currently enrolled in science studies.

The RSC Belgum workshop global experiment was highlighted as a "favorite part of the day" by participants in their feedback.

The RSC Belgium team was led by Rita Woodward with fellow executive members Ian Carson, Elaine Francke and Tim Reynolds. Our special thanks to students Armourie Prentice and Katrien Laurier who completed the team.

IYC Event: Just the Beginning?

A strong contingent of RSC Belgium members and friends were at the inspiring closing conference for the IUPAC/UNESCO International Year of Chemistry 2011 at the new Square Brussels Meeting Centre on 1 December. Leading figures from the international chemistry community gave their views on the importance of chemistry to solving major global issues, but perhaps the most inspiring visions came from a group of younger people.

The ceremony was opened by HRH Prince Philippe of Belgium and insprational messages were given by Christian Jourquin, CEO of Solvay, European Commissioner for Research Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and IUPAC President Prof. Nicole Moreau.

There then followed a presentation from 13 young leaders drawn from academia and industry around the world. They described their vision of the world in 2050 and how the chemical sciences will make it a better place by addressing the challenges that confront society today.

The vision was presented via three imagined scenarios that were very well thought out and delivered in a thought provoking manner.

A response to these visions was provided by Ada Yonath, 2009 Nobel laureate for chemistry and Jean-Luc Bredas, 1997 Francqui prize winner. Representatives from UNESCO, the OECD, and the Polish Minister Deputy Minister of Economy Hanna Trojanowska also took part in the event along with chief executives representing global chemicals and pharmaceuticals companies.

Outside the main auditorium a small exhibition area featured the life of Maria Sklodowska-Curie, the IYC Global Water Experiment, the Global Stamp Competition, Climate Change, 'Life without Chemistry' and the video 'Chemistry: All about you'.

A great success
The closing ceremony of the International Year of Chemistry was a great success. It was wonderful to see such interest in the creativity and the potential of chemistry to address the challenges facing our societies. High level speakers and young leaders explored and debated how chemistry is vital for solving our most critical global problems including food, water, health, energy, habitat, and more.

However IYC 2011 doesn’t want to stop and the chemistry community is looking to build on the ideas and momentum generated during 2011. More information on the 2050 vision can be found here and a Facebook page has been set up to continue the interaction.

GMO Debate at AutoWorld

The section's second Cafe Chimique of IYC 2011 focused on the Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) debate. Speakers from EuropaBio (Carel du Marchie Sarvaas) and Friends of the Earth Europe (Adrian Bebb) made short presentations on GMOs and policy developments in the green biotechnology area before entering into a spirited debate with an informed audience.

The debate took place on 24 November in a convivial cafe-style environment at AutoWorld, Parc Cinquantenaire in Brussels. Before and after the debate the audience had the chance to mix and discuss the GMO issue with drinks and light refreshment available.

To help us understand the issues, possibilities and policy pros and cons two distinguished speakers led the debate.

GMO speakers
Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth (FoE) Europe (right) and Carel du Marchie Sarvaas from EuropaBio (left) are pictured with section Chairman Prof. Bob Crichton.

Adrian is a long-time FoE campaigner. He is now based in FoE Europe’s Munich office and is Food, Agriculture and Biodiversity Programme Coordinator. Previously he worked with FoE Europe as Agrofuels Campaign Coordinator and GMO Campaigner. Prior to joining the FoE Europe office he was co-ordinator for the Real Food Campaign for FoE UK.

Carel was appointed as Director for Agricultural Biotechnology at EuropaBio in April 2010. He is a Dutch national and has many years experience as a senior public affairs and communications advisor working in Brussels, The Hague and Washington DC. Prior to joining EuropaBio, Carel was Managing Director Public Affairs for Hill & Knowlton International in Brussels.

Hot debate
The two speakers both focused on the huge challenge facing humanity: how to feed 9 billion people and preserve the environment and biodiversity? Debate was heated on occassion with little common ground between the speakers and a wide diversity of opinion coming from the audience.

Before and after the debate, the audience will be polled on a question relating to GM crops to see if their views have been changed by proceedings. Both before and after there was a clear majority in favour of 'GMO' technology, but there was a lower pro-GMO vote following the debate.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Little Light Relief in Woluwe

On the evening of Thursday 27 October, RSC Belgium was delighted to welcome Prof. David Phillips, the President of the RSC, to give his reknowned lecture "A little light relief". The venue for this lecture was the Lecture theatre Roi Baudouin B in the Rosalind Franklin building on the Universite Catholique Louvain (UCL) campus in Woluwe Saint Lambert, Brussels.

As well as being RSC president, David Phillips is Emeritus Professor of Chemistry and former Dean of Sciences at Imperial College London. He also has something of a reputation as a magician, which bacome apparent during his talk.

Prof. Phillips' theme was photomedicine, an area which currently encompasses the effects of light upon the skin, diagnostic uses of light, therapies using non-laser light and the use of lasers.

He described the production of Vitamin D, tanning, how skin ages, and the various types of skin cancers. Photoluminescence is used for immunoassay, the identification of antigens that may be precursors to disease. The technique is used in testing for pregnancy at early stages by seeking the hormone human chorionic gonadotrophin, or testing for HIV.

Baby Bobbit
In terms of the therapeutic uses of light, Prof. Phillips described how light is used to treat ailments such as vitiligo, psoriasis, and jaundice.

The effect of photo luminescence to treat jaundice in young babies was demonstrated with aid of Prof. Phillips' long-time demonstration lecture side-kick: Bobbit - the glass baby (pictured above with RSC Belgium section Chairman Prof. Bob Crichton (left) and Prof. David Phillips (right)).

The main future for photomedicine lies in the development of photodynamic therapy (PDT), which is a minimally invasive procedure used in treating a range of infections and forms of cancer. A number of applications of PDT were described by Prof. Phillips.

Monday, 14 November 2011

RSC President presents Kekule landmark

RSC Belgium achieved another first on 28 October with the presentation of a RSC National Landmark plaque to Ghent University. The plaque commemorates the work of Prof. August Kekulé who worked at Ghent from 1858 to 1867.

The plaque was handed over at a ceremony in the University's magnificent Aula lecture theatre by RSC President Prof. David Phillips (pictured above centre). The landmark was recieved on behalf of the University by Prof. Luc Moens, vice rector of Ghent University (above left) and master of ceremonies was Prof. Pierre De Clercq of Ghent University (right).

During the ceremony an account of Kekulé's time at Ghent and its context in the history of chemistry was given by Dr. Brigitte Van Tiggelen, Chair of the Belgian National Centre for the History of Sciences.

This was followed by a contribution by Prof. Alexander Filippou from Bonn University on behalf of the German Chemical Society (GDCh), the presentation of the plaque itself and a closing presentation by Prof. Pierre De Clercq on the actual siting of Kekulé's laboratory itself.

Many artefacts and pieces laboratory furniture, including original molecular models, Kekulé's chalkboard and lab benches, are displayed at Ghent University's Museum of Science.

Kekulé at Ghent
August Kekulé (1829 - 1896) was one of Europe's most prominent chemists during the second half of the 19th century and his work forms one of the principe foundations of the theory of chemical structure. From 1858 - 1867 Kekulé was professor of chemistry at Ghent University and whilst there he experienced his famous 'benzene dream' from which he deduced the structure of benzene and effectively initiated the development of organic aromatic chemistry, its industrial application and the modern world of plastics and polymers.

The wording of the landmark (above) highlights Kekulé's achievements at Ghent - arguably the best work of his long career. The laboratory that he created in the university marked the establishment of chemical sciences and industry in Belgium and inspired future generations of Belgian chemists. The building that housed Kekulé's original laboratory remains part of the University in the centre of Ghent and will be the final site of the landmark.

The International Year of Chemistry 2011 is an appropriate time to honour Kekulé as it also marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of his landmark text book on organic chemistry - 'Lehrbuch der Organische Chemie' - in 1861.

Ghent sites
A reception followed the ceremony. Earlier members of RSC Belgium and the speakers were given a guided tour of some sites in Ghent associated with Kekulé's time there.

Pictured above in front of the building where Kekulé's laboratory was believed to have been situated - possibly where the open window can be seen - are (above from left to right): Dr. Ian Carson, RSC Belgium Secretary; Prof. David Phillips, RSC President; Prof. Bob Crichton, RSC Belgium Chair; Prof. Alexander Filippou of Bonn University and GDCh; Prof. Pierre De Clercq of Ghent University; and Pauline Meakins of RSC HQ.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

JRC at Geel

The section was very fortunate to be able to make a special visit to the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC)-Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) at Geel on the afternoon of 14 October.

JRC-IRMM is responsible for the maintenance and distribution of supplies of certified reference materials in support of EU legislation. It also produces reference materials for emerging measurement needs in, for example, clinical chemistry, GMO's microbiology and food contaminants, such as PCB's.

The visit saw the Centre's state-of-the-art sample preparation facilities, food safety section and its GMO laboratories amongst other highlights.

The tour was arranged by RSC member, and our host for the visit, Prof. Hendrik Emons who is Head of Unit for Reference Materials at IRMM. Prof. Emons (third from right) is pictured with members of the RSC visiting party above.

Prior to the visit members had lunch at the Brasserie Flore on the market square in Geel.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Chemistry and Culture at EESC

October was a very hectic month for the RSC Belgium section with a variety of events in which the section either participated or organised. Kicking off the month was the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) week-long celebration of IYC 2011.

From Monday October 3 to Friday October 7 a series of events were organised at the EESC HQ at Rue Belliard 99, Brussels that the section supported and many members and friends attended. We include some photos from the events below.

Highlights of the week included:

The opening reception with a chemistry demo (above) from Technopolis Science Centre on the evening of Monday 3 October.

An exhibition on Maria Sklodowska-Curie (Marie Curie) all week with an official opening by the wife of the Polish Ambassador to the EU on Wednesday 5 October lunchtime.

Prof Dimitri Mendeleev was reanimated by actor Peter Casey (pictured above, left, with David Sears UK EESC member and organiser of the EESC IYC week) and instigated an elemental question and answer session on Thursday 6 October at lunchtime.

A very interesting presentation on the 'Catalytic Clothing' project with Profs Tony Ryan and Helen Storey (pictured above) was given on the evening of Thursday 6 October. This initiative has some excellent ecological credentials and also novel ideas for science communication with the public.

A presentation on the Solar Impulse aircraft from Solvay at lunchtime on Friday 7 October.

Mendeleev School Tour
Peter Casey stayed in Brussels for a couple of school visits as well. On Friday 7 October Prof Mendeleev spent the day at the British School of Brussels (BSB) and on Monday he visited the European School at Mol. At both schools he helped bring the Periodic Table vividly to life for students of all ages. He is shown 'in action' at BSB below.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Crowds and Prizes at Emsley talk

Dr John Emsley's lecture on 'A Healthy, Wealthy, Sustainable World' through chemistry attracted well over 70 members and friends to the British School of Brussels on the evening of Monday 19 September. The event was also the venue for presentation of prizes to students who scored well in the section's recent Chemistry Challenge competition.

John Emsley (right) is a champion of chemistry and his talk was based around his new book of the same name that was specifically written for International Year of Chemistry 2011 and describes the importance of chemistry in everyday life, the benefits that chemical science currently brings to society, and how this can continue on a truly sustainable basis.

“The world stands at a crossroads,” said John. “But what route to the future should we take?” A route to a sustainable society beckons John suggests, but requires a significant shift from a material world founded on fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, to one where materials are derived from biomass. “A great deal of emphasis on sustainability is solely on energy and fuels, but there is much more to it,” explained John. “And chemistry is vital to enable the transition to a bio-based society.”

Student prizes
But a key requirement to do this is more young people studying science and engineering. “Chemistry and the other sciences rely heavily on young people with vision and energy. This is the vital resource that we need to tap into if society wants a truly sustainable future,” John concluded.

RSC Belgium is playing its part in engaging with school students through a variety of initiatives including its recent Chemistry Challenge competition. This tough paper-based test of knowledge and initiative was devised by Rita Woodward and split into three sections: a chemistry multiple choice paper, structured questions on chemistry, and a 'Thinking Matters' paper that was not chemistry based.

Prizes were awarded to top performers in each section with the winners drawn from the British School of Brussels (BSB), International School of Brussels (ISB), St. Johns International School and the European Schools at Ixelles and Uccle. Some of the winners recieved their cash prizes and cerificates from section chair Prof. Bob Crichton at the John Emsley lecture (see above).

Keith Price Prize
The best overall entry in the two chemistry sections was from Krithika Swaminathan (pictured left) a studnet at at St. Johns school. Krithika will be the first recipient of the Keith Price Prize established in memory of one of RSC Belgium's founding members who died earlier this year.

Krithika and her family have recently left Belgium for Michigan in the USA, but the section hopes to keep in touch with her. Well done to Krithika and all the students who entered our 2011 Chemistry Challenge!

Look out for the 2012 edition!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A Healthy, Wealthy, Sustainable World

The world stands at a crossroads. What route to the future should we take? Dr John Emsley is a well-known champion of chemistry and works to help people get a better appreciation of the role of chemistry in daily life and its essential contribution to a future sustainable world.

John will be in Brussels on the evening of 19 September to talk about his latest book – ‘A Healthy, Wealthy, Sustainable World’. His latest work was specifically written for International Year of Chemistry 2011 and describes the importance of chemistry in everyday life, the benefits that chemical science currently brings to society, and how this can continue on a truly sustainable basis.

The route to a sustainable city beckons, but what effect will this have on chemistry, which seems to be so dependant on fossil resources? Its products are part of everyday life, and without them we could regress to the world of earlier generations when lives were blighted by disease, famine, dirt and pain.

Dr. John Emsley on "A Healthy, Wealthy, Sustainable World"

Monday September 19th at 19:45 for 20:00

The Brel Theatre at the British School of Brussels, Leuvensesteenweg 19, 3080 Tervuren.

Drinks and nibbles will be available after the lecture and there will be an opportunity to meet and talk with John.

Entrance: Adults €5, bona fide students free, payable at the door. Registration is not essential but if you do intend to come please email RSC Belgium with the number in your party, so we can make sure we have an adequate stock of refreshments on hand.

Dr. Emsley's talk will be based on his latest book ‘A Healthy, Wealthy Sustainable World’, which is published by the RSC.

About John
Dr John Emsley is the author of a series of highly readable best-selling popular science books about everyday chemistry. He has also published in national newspapers and magazines, and he has written chemistry text books and booklets for industry. Following his PhD research at Manchester University, John pursued an academic career in the University of London, before becoming science writer in residence at Imperial College London and then the University of Cambridge where he was science writer in residence. In addition to his popular books and articles he has also authored over 110 original research papers.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Big Day Out at Dow

Glorious sunshine welcomed RSC Belgium members to the Dow Terneuzen plant on Saturday 21 May. They joined some 800 other interested members of the public who visited one of Europe's biggest chemical complexes during this open doors event.

Our visit started with registration at the plant entrance, including a fine bag of Dow goodies, before transfer to the Communications Centre and the opportunity to see a range of interactive exibits focusing on sustainable chemistry and applications in the home, work and play.

There was also a bouncy castle for the kids and some excellent Dutch coffee and top-notch buns.

RSC member and Dow employee Carolyn Ribes (below, right) was our guide for a specially arranged anglophone coach tour of the huge plant at 11:00. The Terneuzen complex is massive covering some 440 hectares - equivalent apparently to 650 football pitches. The site's polyurethane plant is the largest in Europe.

Ecological site
Carolyn described Dow Terneuzen as being "like a city" with its own fire and ambulance service, restaurants and many other services. But Dow also takes its ecological responsibilities very seriously too. Next to the site is a Natura 2000 site of special ecological importance and, uniquely in Europe, the site takes the waste water from the neighbouring town of Terneuzen, cleans it and uses it for process water before cleaning it again and passing it into the River Schelde - an excellent innovation that is a benchmark for future non-competitive water use.

After the coach tour some mebers of the RSC party retired to the Brasserie Westbeer overlooking the Schelde in Terneuzen for a harty lunch. Some members of the RSC group (including Carolyn and her husband Al - also a Dow employee) are pictured outside the restaurant with the Dow plant in the background.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Belgian chemical sites open up for IYC

During the weekend of May 21/22 a number of chemistry related facilities - research laboratories and manufacturing sites - in Belgium will be welcoming the public as part of the International Year of Chemistry 2011. And in this spirit RSC Members and Friends will be visiting the major Dow plant at Terneuzen in the Netherlands on Saturday May 21.

The sites in Belgium which are open during this weekend are coordinated by Essenscia - the Belgian chemical industry organisation. Details of the facilities that are open and arrangements to visit can be found on their website.
Information on the sites is split liguistically on the website with arrangements for chemical facilties in Wallonia in French and those open in Flanders in Flemish.

Dow, Terneuzen
Thanks to RSC Member and Dow employee Carolyn Ribes, the section has a particular opportunity to visit the Dow manufacturing site at Terneuzen, in the Netherlands (below) during their Open Day on Saturday May 21. Terneuzen is situated on the south bank of the Schelt, about 50 km north of Ghent and around 75 minutes drive from Brussels.

The site is constructed around three crackers which convert crude oil or LNG into basic chemical building blocks such as ethylene, propylene and butadiene which are then turned into plastics and basic chemicals. These go on to be transformed elsewhere into final products suich as packaging, electronics, toys, building materials, medicine or cosmetics.The site is particularly known for its sustainable operation, striving to improve energy efficiency, combat climate change and protect health and the environment.

The visit will include a gallery walk and exhibition about developments at Dow including their most innovative products and processes in the Communication Centre. There are many impressive developments moving from R&D labs into commercial use. This will be followed by a coach tour around the actual manufacturing site. Carolyn has arranged for the 11:30 bus tour to be in English. In total the visit should last two hours.

At the end of the visit RSC Belgium participants will head for lunch at the Westbeer restaurant on the waterfront at Terneuzen.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Res Metallica on Mendeleev

RSC Belgium treasurer, Rita Woodward, reports for RSC Belgium News on the Res Metallica Symposium on ‘The Periodic Table of Mendeleev’ that took place on Wednesday May 4 at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven(KULeuven).

In 2011, scientists from every corner of the world are celebrating the International Year of Chemistry. Moreover 2011 marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the Nobel Prize in chemistry, awarded to Maria Sklodowska Curie for her groundbreaking discovery of radium and polonium.

So it was very appropriate that this year’s theme for the Res Metallica Symposium was the Periodic Table of Mendeleev. The meeting was held in the historic ‘Aula van ode Tweede Hoofdwet’ KU Leuven, Thermo-technisch Instituut on the Heverlee campus. This interdisciplinary symposium, introduced by chairman, Prof Patrick Wollants (Dept. of Materials Science, MTM) proved to be of great interest with over 500 people from academia and industry gathered together to hear about Mendeleev's periodic system and its relevance for material science.

A significant highlight of the symposium was when, amidst a shower of sparks, a life-sized 'Table of Mendeleev’ in an up-to-date 3-D format was unveiled. The table (see above - photo (c) K.U.Leuven - Rob Stevens) consists of a total of 112 boxes containing the elements displayed as simple substances in their pure elementary state.

Keynote speakers
Keynote speakers at the symposium included Prof. Peter Atkins of Oxford University (left) the well-known physical chemist and author of numerous popular science tomes such as 'The Elements 'and chemical textbooks such as his classical 'Physical Chemistry'. He offered participants a seat at the periodic table and explored mathematically and visually the underlying role of symmetry as applied to hydrogenic systems in one to four dimensions. Atkins' talk was followed by the unvieling of the new periodic table.

Following this excitement Prof Eric Scerri from UCLA in California gave a talk encapsulating the twists and turns of history to reveal the story and the significance of the Periodic Table.

Following on, Dr Jürgen Gieshoff of Umicore presented an industrial insight into the use of certain elements of the Periodic Table as catalysts, promoters and storage agents in the quest for ‘clean’ technologies for the automotive industry. Maurits Van Camp also from Umicore addressed issues involved in exploiting ‘the urban goldmine’ to achieve a sustainable future based on metals that can be almost indefinitely recycled and reused.

Monday, 2 May 2011

RSC President on Desert Island Discs

RSC President Prof David Phillips was the castaway on BBC Radio 4's long-running programme 'Desert Island Discs' on Sunday 1 May.

For those who missed it the programme is repeated on Friday 6 May at 10:00 (Belgian time) or can be accessed via the BBC iPlayer now via the Desert Island Discs website. Kirsty Young's guest's choices ranged from Vaughan-Williams and Mozart to the Red Army Choir and he reflected on his career and life experiences. Prof Phillips also included Tom Lehrer's rendition of 'The Elements' - a very chemical composition.

The section will be welcoming Prof Phillips (above) to Belgium in October. He will be giving us his reknowned demo lecture 'A Little Light Relief' on the evening of Thursday October 27 in Brussels (details tbc) and then participating in our event with Ghent University to present an International Chemical Landmark marking Kekule's research and teaching work in that city on 28 October.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Keith Price Cup presented

The Keith Price Cup was formally presented to Belgium's 2011 Top of the Bench (TOTB) competition winners - British School of Brussels (BSB) - at their end of term assembly on Friday 8 April.

The BSB team (pictured below with RSC Belgium chairman Prof. Bob Crichton) competed in the RSC UK final of TOTB at Imperial College London on Saturday 2 April.

The BSB team had a great time competing with teams from some of the very best schools in the UK and finished with a very respectable 'mid-table' score.

New name
The RSC Belgium TOTB Cup has been recently renamed as the Keith Price Cup in honour of our first Chairman and principal "founding father" of the section.

The cup (see below) will now be engraved with the name of the winning school each year. Our annual TOTB "Belgian eliminator" competition is open to all schools in Belgium and is usually organised during late November and early December. For more information, please contact Rita Woodward.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Keith Price

It was with great sadness that the section learnt of the death of Dr. Keith Price on Sunday 3rd April following a prolonged battle against cancer. Keith was the main inspiration for the founding of the RSC Belgium section, its first chairman and a stalwart member of the committee over 16 years.

Keith was an extremely active and voluble member of the section – in fact the only time he was ever lost for words was when he received his Long Service Award (see below) at the 2006 AGM. Keith was one of the very first members of an RSC international section to receive this honour. Keith is pictured with his wife Jackie and Section Chairman at the time Paul Gray.

Keith had a long and successful career in the direction of research with Monsanto in their Louvain-la-Neuve site, before retiring and forming his own consultancy business specialising in coordination and management of research projects, in particular for European framework programmes.

Keith and Jackie moved back to the UK from Belgium in 2006, but kept in contact with the section.

Our best wishes and heartfelt sympathy go out to Jackie, their two children, Gavin and Annelli, and the rest of Keith's family. The funeral will take place at Saint Mary’s Church, Ely, Cambridgeshire at midday on Tuesday 19 April. A number of section members plan to be there to pay their respects in person.

Prior to our learning of his death the section committee had already decided to honour Keith’s contribution to the section by renaming our Top of the Bench competition trophy, awarded annually to the school team that wins our national eliminator, the Keith Price Cup.

Donations to Addenbrooke’s
It was Keith’s express wish that, in lieu of flowers at his funeral, donations should be made to the Haematology Day Unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Those wishing to make a donation by credit card can access the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT) online donation website, where a drop down menu allows donation to a specific ward. The Haematology Day Unit is Ward E10 and can be found by scrolling down the list. There is also an opportunity to indicate that the donation is in memory of Keith.

Alternatively a cheque drawn on a UK bank and made out to ‘ACT (Ward E10)’ can be sent to:
Box 126
Addenbrooke’s Hospital
Hills Road
Cambridge CB2 0QQ

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Euroschools Science Symposium

RSC Belgium was busy mid-March supporting the European Schools Science Symposium (ESSS) that took place this year from the 20th to 23rd at the European School Brussels II at Woluwe and at Eurocontrol. RSC Belgium provided speakers and sponsored a prize for the best chemistry-related entry.

As well as involving local RSC Belgium members, we were able to invite the RSC's interim CEO, Dr. Robert Parker, to Brussels to deliver a plenary address.

The ESSS is an annual opportunity for students from the 27 schools of the European School system to show off their scientific expertise. The European Schools system was established to provide native language teaching for the children of employees of the European Institutions. There are four schools in Brussels and the others are spread around Europe close to other major EU agencies from Bergen (NL) to Varese. In all 68 student projects were exhibited and described at the sysmposium.

Presentations and prizes
RSC Belgium attended the opening event on Sunday 20 March and provided two speakers. RSC interim Chief Executive Robert Parker (below) gave an entertaining after dinner address on 'Our future - chemists of the next generation'.

Before dinner RSC Belgium secretary Dr. Ian Carson had given a presentation on 'Science, Serendipity and Intrigue - the story of the modern potato crisp bag'.

The next two days were taken up with poster and oral presentations of the students' work at Eurocontrol. The Monday session was opened with some high-level speakers including EU Research Commissioner Maire Geoghegan-Quinn and Eurocontrol boss David McMillan. The symposium closed on Wednesday with prize giving and a presentation from RSC Belgium Chairman Prof Bob Crichton on 'The Powerful Potential of Chemistry'.

Mol winners
The winner of the RSC Chemistry prize was the European School at Mol in Belgium. The winning team - whose project featured a study on chewing gum - are pictured below with RSC Belgium Chairman Bob Crichton and Woluwe Headmaster Richard Galvin (far right of picture).

Congratulations to the Mol school and many thanks to section secretary Ian Carson who was the prime mover for the section's involvement with this initiative. Some of the RSC Belgium team involved are pictured at the opening Sunday event below - from left to right Robert Parker, Tim Reynolds, Bob Crichton, Ulrica Grankvist-Nybacka (deputy director of the secondary school at Woluwe) and Ian Carson.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Chemie et energie...detonante!

RSC Belgium's annual demonstration lecture series for International Year of Chemistry (IYC) got off to an explosive start on Tuesday 29 March with two events for schools at the Universite Catholique de Louvain (UCL) site in Woluwe, Brussels.

The lectures given by Prof Istvan Marko and his intrepid assistant Fabbio Lucaccioni (see below) certainly were well recieved by teachers and pupils and covered some explosive aspects of gas, liquid and solids plus oscillating reactions and a number of other chemical tricks.

In the morning Istvan and Fabio entertained and informed pupils from St. John's International School in Waterloo, the European School Brussels II (Woluwe) and Science Infuse.

One immediate comment from a teacher from St. Johns School was: "I want to thank the RSC for the excellent lecture this morning. Professor Marko and assistant were most entertaining and the level was perfect for the students who attended. I already know from our bus ride home that the students really enjoyed themselves and I have no doubt it will have sown some seeds of enthusiasm for our subject."

The afternoon session saw pupils from the Da Vinci International school in Antwerp, the International School of Brussels (ISB), L'Ecole International Le Verseau from Wavre and Science Infuse.

Printemps des Sciences
Prof Marko will be repeating the lecture for a public audience on the evening of Thursday 31 March and for francophone schools on the afternoon of Friday 1 April as part of the Printemps des Sciences organised by Science Infuse at UCL's main Louvain-la-Neuve campus. The evening show will feature an additional contribution from the Wavre Historical Association!

The evening public lecture has already attracted around 500 subscribers and the final francophone school show is "sold-out" at ~550 bringing this year's RSC Belgium demonstration lectures to a total audience of around 1400 - a great success.

New building
The UCL facilties at Woluwe are a new venue for RSC Belgium and worked very well. The UCL site is close to major public transport axes (Alma on metro line 1 direction Stockel, STIB/MIVB and De Lijn/ TEC buses) and close to the Brussels ring road making access easy for all. The Roi Baudoin lecture theatres are housed in the brand new Rosalind Franklin building on the site and easy to find off Avenue E. Mounier.

The section is endebted to UCL for the provision of their facilities, our colleagues at Science Infuse and to Air Liquide for gas supply at short notice. And of course to Prof Istvan Marko, Fabio and the UCL team (see above) for putting on these spectacular shows for the International Year of Chemistry.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Alzheimer's Disease

RSC Belgium members and friends got an update on progress in understanding Alzheimer's Disease on Tuesday 1st March from Prof. Jean-Noel Octave of the Institute of Neuroscience at the Universite Catholique de Louvain (UCL).

The meeting, held in the Swoosh Lounge at the British School of Brussels (BSB), attracted a healthy crowd of well over 40 who engaged in an extensive Q&A session after Prof. Octave's presentation.

Prof Octave (below left with Prof Bob Crichton) explained that the prevalence of Alzheimer's was around 1% of the population aged 60 - 64, but this doubled for every five years of age increase so at age 85 some 40% of the population would be affected. In Belgium alone this means that some 37 new cases arose every day.

Not genetic
Alzheimer's dementia results in progressive loss of brain tissue and is the most common neurodegenerative disease. It is characterized by the presence of two types of characteristic brain lesions.

The first are neurofibrillary tangles. These are intraneuronal lesions composed of paired helical filaments, whose major component is hyperphosphorylated protein tau. The second type are senile plaques, which are extracellular lesions containing an amyloid core made of Ab peptide. This peptide is produced from the Amyloid Precursor Protein (APP).

Although 1% of all Alzheimer's Disease is due to an inherited genetic cause the vast majority of cases are not. There are no known biomarkers for Alzheimer's disease and definitive diagnosis of the disease is still only possible post-mortem by microscopic analysis of brain tissue. It is possible that advanced magnetic imaging technology may make accurate diagnosis possible in vivo through direct detection of the characteristic lesions in the near future.

Protein problem
The main focus of Prof. Octave's research is on the cellular metabolism of APP, using a variety of cellular models to study the function of APP, which remains unknown. His group also uses transgenic mice that allows evaluation of the physiological relevance of the results obtained in cultured cells.

Although it is clear that our understanding of the protein chemistry underlying Alzheimer's has increased dramatically in the past few years although there is still some way to go to yield an effective intervention as the proteins involved have multiple physiological effects.

Friday, 18 February 2011

BSB test out IYC experiment

As part of the school's Charities Week the British School of Brussels (BSB) tried out the International Year of Chemistry's Global experiment. Chemistry classes on Tuesday 15 February measured the acidity of water samples for inclusion in a global database.

While secondary pupils tackled the experiment for themselves younger classes were led through the experiment by students from years 12 and 13. All classes examined four samples: rain water, tap water, distilled water and water taken from the lake in Tervuren Park close to the Royal African Museum.

The results from the experiments will be added to the IYC global database that has recently launched.

Global experiment
The International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC) is inviting school students around the world to explore one of Earth’s most critical resources: water. The results of their investigations will contribute to a Global Experiment, which could become the biggest chemistry experiment ever!

Under the theme, “Water: A Chemical Solution” students look at the properties of their local water and the technological solutions chemistry makes available to humanity in supplying clean drinking water.

Experiment modules can be carried out by children of all ages in schools across all continents. Results will be electronically showcased as an interactive global data map at the end of 2011, demonstrating the value of international cooperation in science.

There are four possible modular activities in the global experiment: measuring the pH of the Planet (the task BSB tackled), assessing salty waters, the Solar Still Challenge, and 'No water, No Germs'.

More information on the IYC Global Experiment can be found here.

Charities Week
The whole week of 14 - 18 February was designated as Charities Week at BSB with events and fundraising activities being staged by school staff, pupils and parents for a variety of good causes.

Tuesday 15 February was highlighted as ‘Water Day’. On the day specially branded 'Drink and Donate' water will be on sale and the school community was asked to consider 'What price would you put on clean water'. The specific aim of the day's fundraising was to provide one (or more) borehole(s) - each able to supply clean drinking water to an African school for a whole year!

BSB are Belgium TOTB champs!

Four pupils from the British School of Brussels (BSB) in Tervuren will be representing Belgium at this year's RSC Top of the Bench (TOTB) competition that takes place this coming weekend.

This year our Belgian eliminator attracted entries from 46 students at four local schools (BSB, the European School at Woluwe (Brussels II), the European School at Ixelles (Brussels III) and St. John’s International School in Waterloo). The competition was, as usual, extremely tight, but the BSB team were clear winners.

The BSB team (below) will be presented with the Belgium TOTB cup in the near future and arrangements are now under way for them to travel to the TOTB National Final in the UK. This testing challenge will pit team members Thomas, Imogen, Anandmoy and Ayako against budding scientists from some of the best UK schools.

The final takes place on Saturday 2 April at Imperial College in London. Congratulations to the BSB team and we wish them the best of luck in London this weekend!

Monday, 14 February 2011

2010 Poster Competition Winners

The RSC Belgium section 2010 poster competition was based on the theme 'Water and Life' following the popular lecture from Prof Neil Ward of Surrey University on his 'Water for Life' project held in March. RSC Belgium executive members judged the entries on both artistic flair and scientific content. And the prize winners are announced below.

The poster competition was open to all students in Belgium in three age ranges: 14 years old or over; 12 - 14 years old; and 9 - 11 years old at 1st September 2010. Budding artists were asked to depict the chemistry behind 'Water and Life' in an informative and creative way. Entries were accepted in English, French, Dutch and German.

The 12 - 14 year age range was the most competitive class with the first prize going to Thomas Hoogendoorn of the European School Brussels II situated in Woluwe Saint Lambert for a very imaginative and informative entry (see below).

Two joint second prizes were awarded to Ana Catarina Barbedo also of the European school (see below)

and Alexandra Paunica (see below) from the British School of Brussels (BSB) in Tervuren, just outside Brussels. Merit prizes in this age range were also awarded to Agathe Bruynickx, Liam Horbacheweska and Kim Minsoo all studying at BSB.

Junior prizes
In the Under 12 category a merit prize was awarded to Noemie Bouvant (see below) from a primary school in Boussu just west of Mons. Two pupils at the same school, Flavi Berlemont and Massimo Bouvant also picked up Merit prizes for their entries even though they were outside the specified age range being under 9 years old at the beginning of the 2010-11 academic year.

Congratulations to all our entrants!

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Chemistry gets big on Berlaymont

Yesterday (2 February) a 'mega banner' promoting the chemical sciences was unveiled on the European Commission's headquarters, the Berlaymont building, in Brussels.

The 40 metre tall banner celebrates International Year of Chemistry with the message 'Chemistry innovating for a sustainable future'.

The banner coincides with an important conference for the High Level Group on the Competitiveness of the Chemical Industry (HLG) that takes place in Brussels on 10 February.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Cafe Chimique kicks off IYC!

RSC Belgium launched its event programme for International Year of Chemistry 2011 (IYC 2011) on 27 January with a 'heated' debate on climate change. A capacity crowd of 70 engaged in a Cafe Scientifique style discussion in the Autoworld Museum situated in the Cinquantenaire Park close to Brussels' European quarter.

The venue for the 'Cafe Chimique' was Espace53: the retro-chic restaurant 'bubble' in Autoworld. The event brought together two scientific experts on climate change with Belgium section chairman Prof Bob Crichton (centre, below) acting as Master of Ceremonies for the evening. A free bar and snacks were provided by the section to lubricate the discussion.

Of models and men
Our two speakers both based their presentations firmly on scientific view points. Prof Jean-Pascal van Ypersele (right above) studies climatology and environmental science at the Universite Catholique du Louvain (UCL) and is vice-chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). While Prof Istvan Marko (left, above) is also a researcher at UCL running the Laboratory of Organic and Medicinal Chemistry.

Both speakers gave a short opening presentation before the floor was opened to questions. The debate lasted for almost two hours and focused around a number of controversial points such as the 'chicken and egg' question: in the historical record which came first - temperature change or CO2 variation. How climate models are developed and used was also a 'hot' topic.

Straw poll
Before the debate got going a straw poll of the audience was made to determine their starting position on two questions: 'Is Global warming really happening?', and 'If so is it due to human activities?'.

At the start of the event our audience were overwhelmingly saying "yes" to both questions, with a slightly lower majority for the second question on the contribution from human activity.

A repeat poll at the end of the debate gave a similar result but with a distinct, and unexpected, swing towards climate scepticism.

Discussions and debate continued informally after the Q&A session while the bar remained open.

The event was a great success and the section hopes to organise at least one more Cafe Chimique on a controversial subject during IYC 2011. If you have ideas for a topic and a pair of speakers, please share your ideas with us by email.

Don't forget...
Our next scheduled evening event for IYC 2011 is on March 1 in the Swoosh Lounge at the British School of Brussels (BSB) and will look at progress in the understanding and combating of Alzheimer's Disease. Our speaker will be Prof Jean-Noel Octave, President of the Institute of Neurosciences at UCL.