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The University of Southampton

Tackling complex experiments at undergraduate level

Published: 2 July 2012

Twenty enthusiastic second year Chemistry students are learning about life in pharmaceutical laboratories this summer – without leaving the University of Southampton.

Organic Chemistry Summer School

They have signed up for the unique Organic Chemistry Summer School organised by Dr Thomas Logothetis with the assistance of partners Eli Lilly, Novartis and Evotec.

The four-week programme introduces the students to advanced laboratory practice, which they then use under the supervision of industrial chemists from each of the partner companies who are supported by academic staff.

"I'm really pleased I got involved with the summer school," says student David Parker. "We are doing challenging work and learning the techniques we'll need in our third year and later on in our careers."

“Usually, our students’ laboratory work consists of experiments which, when completed carefully by the students; are designed to work,” explains Thomas. “These OCSS sessions often cover exciting new research areas involving untested chemistry, and we do not know whether they will have successful outcomes.”

Challenging work and techniques

The companies design synthetic chemistry projects that are of value to them and which give students valuable insight into the activities of chemical industries, particularly the pharmaceutical sector, as well as transferable skills for the world of work. Tasks involve the manufacture of valuable intermediates important in industry and the products from the experiments are used by the companies in their development work. The second years are effectively short-term contracted employees of each organisation and learn about the professional working environment and are supported throughout with a living allowance provided by the industrial partners.

Research chemist Dr Matthew Jones from Eli Lilly says: “It’s good for my company to be involved in the Summer School. We get the opportunity to make various interesting compounds with the students’ assistance and they get the chance to learn more about careers in industry.”

Dr. Jeremy Hinks, Deputy Head of Chemistry (Education) and a past industrial partner on the Summer School comments: ”It is great to see the OCSS retaining its popularity and purpose. It is every bit as relevant now as it was in 1993 when it first ran. This unique programme is a significant element of a range of experiences we offer our undergraduate students to improve their employability. We owe all our industrial partners a considerable vote of thanks for their support over almost 20 years.”

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