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Chemistry happens in the Freshman labs

Course participants analysed, planned and 'danced the samba' - with workplace skills in mind.

The freshman labs for chemistry studies were filled to the bursting point, when a total of 200 chemistry freshmen starting their studies last autumn and a number of Bio-IT students signed up for the laboratory courses. The course participants did 5.5 hours of lab work a day over a seven-week period.

– When you turn the flask around against your hand, you have to open the tap. If you don't open the tap, some serious pressure will build up inside the flask. Keep repeating this until there's no more gas. When you see a clear phase boundary, you can start separating them, instructs Hakaste.

Planning, repetition, precision

Lab work is an absolutely inseparable part of chemistry studies. In the basic chemistry course, students investigate the relationship between molecular structure and reactivity, and the fundamentals of chemical reactions, balances and reaction mechanisms.  The students make syntheses by applying the basic principles of organic chemistry, learning how theory is linked to practice. After the course, the students will know how to describe the relationships between molecular structure and reactivity.

The aim of one task was to learn about the condensation reaction between a simple amine and ketone, in which the product crystallises directly from a reaction solution and is easily isolated. In some cases, it was necessary to re-crystallise the product due to impurities in it.

University Lecturer Pekka Joensuu is responsible for the planning of the course. During the laboratory course, Antonia Högnäsbacka served as Part-time Teacher and Iiris Hakaste, Lauri Levola, Sami Kulju, Toni Aaltonen, Magda Nosek, Jusri Hassanein and Liam Gillan as assistants.

The teachers took turns providing guidance to different groups. The laboratory was filled with the sound of fume hoods busily humming along, noises and hissing - and lab slang.   Protective goggles, coats and gloves are part of the lab uniform. All extra items are left in a separate corridor.

-Have you done the extraction chart? Remember to turn on the tap. You 'samba´ [shake the Erlenmayer flask] with the cork out until there's no more gas. Then, when you've separated the phases, you'll have an organic substance. Nice extraction charts, Iris! echoes the voice of Iiris Hakaste.

Under the guidance of Antonia Högnäsbacka, students make a protecting group for ketone.

Summer jobs in the field

– In this course, you'll actually be doing chemistry - before, we just conducted analyses. Now, we're really making chemistry. This is a good thing if you're looking to find a summer job in the field, says Antonia Högnäsbacka (M.Sc. Tech.).

According to Oskari Martela and Samuel Leppänen, students learn a great deal in the laboratory.
– You have to use your own brain. We plan, for example, how reagents are to be used and there are a lot of different labs, such as TLC (Thin-layer chromatography), where you can observe the progress of a reaction.

By measuring the pH of the water phase, it was possible to see whether the reaction was extinguished.

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