Kickstart at University of Sydney – HSC Chemistry Excursion 2016

On Wednesday 17 August, the Senior Chemistry class attended sessions on the Chemical Monitoring and Management and Forensic Chemistry modules, at the University of Sydney. Upon our arrival we were greeted by the School of Chemistry graduate university students.  Each student specialised in one component of our chemistry syllabus.  Most of the stations were completed with the assistance of these university students.

The first station involved our class examining the Atomic Absorption Spectrometer, which is responsible for measuring and identifying the presence and concentration of heavy metals in water.

We performed a firsthand investigation at the second station, measuring the content of sulphur in fertiliser. If sulfur is present in large quantities in our terrestrial and aquatic environments, the biotic and abiotic features of these environments will struggle to survive as this element can combine with water to form a strong acid called, sulphuric acid.

After this our class performed titrations to test the hardness of water (the ability of water to allow soap to lather) after we had perfected our titrations technique at school ! For our final station we examined the structure of a machine that is able to separate an entire mixture for example alcohol and identify the substances present as well as the individual concentration of each substance present within the mixture. This process is called Gas-Liquid Chromatography and is usually coupled with mass spectrometry. This process is used to identify a substance at a crime scene or the concentration and presence of a particular illicit drug that an individual has consumed. These technologies are undoubtedly important in the Science and legal community as it provides accurate and reliable evidence that can allow a jury to come to a decision for a crime that an individual may have committed.

After lunch we attended our final session, where we were kindly invited by Dr Trent’s brother, Professor Ronald Trent to observe the medical school at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. We performed a firsthand investigation on DNA identification through electrophoresis. Whilst we waited for our electrophoresis results, Professor Trent discussed with us the importance of DNA testing in serving justice in our community. After our results were processed we were able to keep a “fingerprint” of the DNA which then allowed us to identify the gender of the sample analysed.

On behalf of the Year 12 Senior Chemistry class, I would like to thank Dr Trent for planning these thoroughly enjoyable, enriching and hands on learning experiences, which will undoubtedly be a great help to our HSC exams!


Isabella Aleksovska (Year 12 Chemistry student) and Fiona Pelosi (Science Prefect)