End of Internship

Hello again! I’m now back home as my internship ended last Thursday. In this post, I’ll try to summarize what I managed to do and what I learnt from this experience.

The first technique was titration. I started from finding sources and reading them. Then I made the protocol and started filming. The main difficulty was to find out how to obtain the best quality of the video. I published the first version and got some really nice feedback. I went back to the lab and made the second version, and now finished the post production – so the final video is waiting to be published. In the meantime, high school students came to the Uni to give us feedback on the project.

The second video was standard solutions. This was much easier to do – firstly because the technique itself was a bit shorter, secondly because I had more experience after the first video.

The third video – a technique that took me the most time – was distillation. I’ve only recently published the first version for feedback.

I also managed to write protocols for a few more techniques and video one of them – filtration.

So, what did I learn from the internship? Firstly, I practiced the techniques. Secondly, how you can never be sure if you know something until you start teaching it. Teaching requires being proficient at things, so you’ll notice fast if you’re not good enough at something. Moreover, at first I thought that three videos in seven weeks is a joke and I could easily do even 20. Only when I started making videos, did I realize how wrong I had been.

So, to sum up, I really enjoyed the internship – it was a nice challenge and a very good work experience, no matter what career path I will choose after Uni.

I would like to thank some people for making this easier for me to do what I managed to. Firstly, I’d like to thank Dr Michael Seery for giving me the opportunity and for introducing me to the project. Secondly, to Ms Elaine Sutherland and Ms Kirsty Bain for invaluable help in the lab. To Dr Murray Low, Dr Robin Vevers and Dr Kristy Turner for huge help with the scientific part of the project, and to Euan, Amy and Helen for being great help as well.

I will, of course, follow the project and will see you in my fifth year! 🙂

Distillation – Version 1

Hello! Today I’m sharing with you the first version of my video on distillation. This was the third technique after titration and standard solutions, and was a challenge from the very beginning. Firstly, I wrote a protocol. The difficult part before I even started filming, was clamping the setup. I did not want to over clamp it, but wanted to give it enough stability. After discussing it with several people, I decided to clamp the condenser only, as the flask was stabilised by the heating mantle.

Photo for Blog.jpgSo, the protocol was ready and I started filming. Unlike for the standard solutions and titration, videoing distillation had a very serious obstacle – I could not pause it to change the camcorder position, once I switched the heating on, distillation had to proceed until the end. So I had to do it quite a few times. When I decided that I had enough material (trust me – that took way more time than titration and standard solution), I put it all together and added audio. I’m quite happy with the effect and hope you will like the video as well!

Again, please share your comments on the video. Any feedback would be appreciated. This is the first edit, so I hope the technique is correct and the video and audio are easy to follow. I understand that everyone has their own way of carrying out distillation and each way might differ slightly from other ones. Different books also show some differences. Therefore, I’ll be happy to justify and discuss any parts that someone might find strange or inappropriate, or admit that I was wrong 🙂

Anyway, please enjoy watching!

PS. Just like in the previous videos, I realised how many details you only see when the video is already finished. After making the video, I almost published it, but then realised that half of it was filmed with the mantle plugged to one socket, and half – plugged to a different one. So, I had to re-shoot it 🙂 Can’t even describe, how much more attention I pay to detail now…

Pipetting 2: Pipette harder: Behind the scenes

The great feedback we received for our first take at pipetting made our lives a lot easier for our second attempt, so first off thanks to everyone who shared their opinions! Really, the only question we still had to answer before we could start filming our second set of videos was should gloves be worn?

  • The pro-gloves side believe that wearing gloves protects you from not only the chemical you’re working with, but also against the possible contaminated glassware and communal areas of the lab (such as the sink and bench).
  • The anti-gloves side believe that wearing gloves not only makes students complaisant and somewhat careless when it comes to handling the solutions , but also practically gloves impede the controlled release of solution.

“The Hands”(Amy) decided that since the chemical we were using was rather safe, she would go bare-handed, allowing her better control of the release of solution. We thought it noteworthy to mention at the start of the video that if gloves are needed the students will be told in their lab manual.

After “The Voice”(Euan) recorded the script and ensured many rolling Scottish “r”s throughout, it came time for editing. We wanted the videos to be as condense as possible so that the students would pay attention from start to finish, and so I (“The Director/Editor”) abandoned Windows movie maker for Camtasia version 8 which allowed for split screens and callouts.

Hopefully you enjoy our two newest blockbusters!

Pipetting 2

Hi everyone, here are our two new videos on pipetting (graduated and volumetric). Unfortunately due to technical issues the two videos have the watermark associated with the free trial of Camtasia but this is an issue that should be resolved soon. We’ve updated the script for the two new videos which you can find here, and our Behind the Scenes post should be up soon!

Any feedback would be very much appreciated – especially on the introduction which we will standardise once all the videos have been made!

The first graduated pipetting attempt:

The second volumetric pipetting attempt:

Preparing a Standard Solution from Solid – Improved Video

Hey everyone! This is my second post on making a solution from solid. After getting quite a lot of feedback on the previous video, I went back to the lab and re-shot it. This took a longer while and made me realise how many little mistakes you can’t see and how helpful the reviewers are in spotting them.

Photo.jpgAs I said, I re-shot the whole video using sodium carbonate instead of sodium hydroxide, as the latter one may confuse students (carbonate is a primary standard, while hydroxide is not!). I followed a similar protocol to make a 0.1000-molar solution of it, but I changed the way of transferring the solid to the flask. In the previous video, I transferred it directly from the boat. In this video, I transferred it to a beaker first, and then to the flask. I also added a bit about cleaning the balance and leaving it clean after using it and mentioned the purity of the solute. Again, as in the previous video, it is emphasised that one of the most important parts is to transfer the solid quantitatively – which basically means rinsing almost everything with deionised water. Summarising, this is a whole new video – quite different from the previous one. I hope I managed to include all the important details, there are definitely more of them in this than in the sodium hydroxide video.

After the feedback, I will hopefully move to post-production, in which I will add text (checklist for students and important parts to notice) and I’ll try to cut the video a bit, as the long parts tend to get boring. I will also add the opening of me saying: “Hey everyone, this video is about making a standard solution!” (this will go straight after the Edinburgh Uni intro).

I want to thank you all for your comments so far – they were invaluably helpful. Please share your thoughts on this video in terms of mistakes or what I can improve. Feedback on quality, procedure or anything else will be much appreciated and I’d definitely like to get any feedback on the quality of audio (and if my accent is understandable), as I find it the most difficult bit. Enjoy watching!

Preparing a Solution from Solid NaOH

Photo for Post.jpgHi again! While the titration video is waiting for the post-production, a new technique video is ready. This is preparing a solution from solid. Again, the first thing was to find good resources – these were Vogel’s Textbook of Quantitative Inorganic Analysis and the IUPAC Gold Book (standard solutions). I thought that despite that sodium hydroxide is not a primary standard, the main point is to teach the students how to prepare a solution from solid, and that sodium hydroxide would match the video on titration quite nicely. It is emphasised in the video that this is not a standard solution, and that it has to be standardised (titration with a secondary standard as titrant).

So the video is on making a 0.100 M NaOH aqueous solution. As for titration, the protocol was the first thing to do – I wrote down the procedure and the main points to remember. Generally, the main thing was to transfer the solid to the flask quantitatively, which basically means to rinse with deionised water everything that had contact with the solid. Work in the lab was quite smooth and didn’t cause trouble – especially that all the quality issues were solved in the titration video.

The video I’m sharing with you now is the first, rough version. It has the audio and I hope it’s easy to follow. Please note, that the video will be re-shot with sodium carbonate instead of hydroxide, as I want to avoid any confusion with regard to using NaOH for standard solutions. Sodium carbonate is a primary standard and hence will leave no doubts. However, I wanted to share this video anyway, as the procedure for Na2CO3 will be pretty much the same. So please tell me if you find any mistakes and I’ll avoid them in the second version – the one with carbonate. One doubt that I’ve had is whether gloves should be used. For 0.1-molar NaOH there is no need, but solid NaOH is a different story – is it dangerous enough to use gloves though? Of course, this question is easy for carbonate and for that video I won’t be using gloves.

So yeah, please let me know what you think. As I said, the solid will be replaced with sodium carbonate but this won’t change the procedure much. Enjoy watching!

Will the Project Work in Practice?

It is a very important part of developing any project to receive feedback on what others – especially those involved – think about it. So, apart from all the feedback we get for our videos, we also want to make sure the overall project is top notch – that’s what we aim for. And of course, we value the opinions from everyone – teachers, academic staff and the people of YouTube and WordPress, who found out about the project (or those who just procrastinate before exams 😉 ). But if you think about it – the most important group of people – those who will have to learn something valuable from the videos and get the most of the project – are STUDENTS. So  we invited some to our Uni…

On Thursday, May 26, a group of five high school students came to have a look at what being a Chemistry student feels like. So we prepared an activity similar to the one that first year students will do. They were going to carry out a titration of HCl with NaOH – the one I did in my titration video.


Firstly, the students prepared a 0.100-molar solution of NaOH, which then they used as titrant. We showed them the video and asked them to write down the major points to remember when preparing and carrying out the titration. Then, while doing the actual titration, they were asked to have an eye on each other. After finishing and doing the calculations, they watched the video again, to check if they did everything correctly. They shared their observations and filled a little survey about the project that we had given them.

The survey included a question about the video, whether they enjoyed the activity, what was easy and hard about it. It turned out the students really did like it and thought it was a good idea to develop such a project. They pointed out poor quality of the video, which then was improved (version 2 is the improved one). Unanimously, did they wrote that making and following the checklist made it easier to carry out the titration.

To conclude, the students gave us some really good feedback on the project. Will it work in practice for the first year students at University? Hell yeah!