University of Otago, New Zealand


Te Tari Hua-Ruanuku

Hands-On Science 2005

Friday 21 January 2005

From the 17th to the 21st January, 2005, eight students from around New Zealand spent the week in the chemistry department as part of the University of Otago Hands-On Science programme. The project that the students undertook was in the area of Natural Products Chemistry, which is the part of chemistry which is interested in seeking out new and useful chemical compounds from natural sources such as plants.

The well known psychoactive compound caffeine was used as a case study to explore the ideas and methods of natural products chemistry. Firstly, caffeine was extracted from various natural, and not so natural, sources.

Then, the students prepared caffeine from suitable precursor compounds using the techniques of modern organic synthesis. Finally, the precursor compounds and the product caffeine were characterised using a range of modern spectroscopic methods, including 1H NMR and IR spectroscopy. The group also enjoyed a talk by Dr John van Klink, a member of the Plant Extracts Research Unit, which is based in the Chemistry Department, and is concerned with discovering and developing new chemical products from native New Zealand sources.

Everyone enjoyed the chance to try their hand at the sort of chemistry that graduate students do at university and to be part of the university research atmosphere.

The 2005 group were:
Sarah Boys - Craighead Diocesan School
Tessa Cowley - St Peter’s School, Cambridge
Richard D’Ath - Scots College
Brigitte Dyer - Craighead Diocesan School
Alice Galtland - Westlake Girls High School
Megan Poh - New Plymouth Girls High School
Stefan Read - Waitara High School
Lyall Sutherland - Tuatapere Community College

 My thanks to all those who helped out during the week, especially
Pauline Bandeen
Lisa Bucke
Ian Billinghurst
Karen Rowley
John Wells
John van Klink
Ian Stewart
And, of course, Heather Hannagan.

Dr Dave McMorran

You may also like to look at the Hands-On Science home page