Year 12 student Jasmine Kaur from Wakefield Girls’ High School won 1st prize in the prestigious Molecular Modeller of the Year 2019 competition, run by the University of York. The competition was held for the first time this year and was run nationally for secondary and sixth form students. The task was to build an original but accurate model of ethyl butanoate (a pineapple smelling ester) using readily available materials. Jasmine’s prize winning entry was credited by judges for its fantastic use of recycled old chemistry notes to make the atoms and pencil bonds. Jasmine has been awarded a trophy and a biochemistry molecular modelling kit, as well as being invited back to the University of York for a tour of the chemistry department.
When asked what inspired her award winning creation, Jasmine explained: "I had an idea to create my model using my old chemistry notes, as it allowed me to recycle the paper. I also thought it was a unique idea to use my pencils for the bonds and I incorporated the ester scent with the pineapple spray.”
Dr Sarah Duerden-Brown, head of chemistry at Wakefield Girls’ High School, said of the award win: “We are absolutely thrilled that Jasmine has won such a prestigious national molecular model competition. We were blown away with her attention to detail and how she had transformed some old chemistry revision notes into atoms and used pencils for covalent bonds. Not forgetting the pineapple perfume sprayed over it!”
Jasmine has also been interviewed by the BBC, as part of a BBC News and BBC World Service feature on the chemistry of cosmetics and engagement with young people in chemistry. The recent filming took place at Wakefield Girls’ High School, where girls from Year 9, 10 and 12 demonstrated their organic chemistry skills by making a range of products including bath bombs and lip balm. The A level students extracted essential oils from plant material and discussed the chemistry of subtly different structures, called enantiomers and the effect on smell and biological interactions.
Filming took place over the course of an afternoon and included a student discussion on the wide range of organic and physical chemistry concepts in the production of cosmetics, as well as how to make your own cosmetics and the influence of social media. The item focuses on the exploration of cosmetics and make-up as hooks to get more secondary and sixth form students across the UK interested in chemistry.
The BBC contacted Dr Joanna Rhodes, assistant head and director of Sixth Form at Wakefield Girls’ High School, after reading her article The Creative Chemistry of Cosmetics. Dr Rhodes said: “Cosmetics and make-up are topics that interest many of our girls. Harnessing their enthusiasm for these beauty products provides links to challenging topics in chemistry, as well as promoting cosmetic chemistry as a career option”.