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NATS1003 Detecting the undetectable: Analytical Techniques in the Natural Sciences

Module Overview

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The development and application of analytical methodologies to determine the composition and structure of matter are central to the development of science. The overall aim of this course is to equip our students with the basic factual knowledge that, together with knowledge acquisition skills and critical thinking skills, will enable them to make independent rational decisions relating to aspects of analytical science that impact on their lives in the future. The core of the course will provide an introduction and integrated approach to the key chemistry, physics, experimental techniques and concepts that analytical science.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • a sound understanding of the physical and chemical principles that underlie modern analytical techniques.
  • awareness of the use of NMR spectroscopy in probing supramolecular interactions, understanding the thermodynamics of fluxional processes in solution and following reaction kinetics
  • critical understanding of different chromatographic techniques their use in analysis
  • a critical awareness of the use of chromatography in societal applications
  • a critical appreciation of the ethical issues and likely societal impacts that are associated with advances in analytical methods
  • strategies for acquiring, collating, interpreting, evaluating and presenting complex technical information from cutting-edge research publications
  • a broad and critical understanding of the scientific and societal contexts in which analytical techniques are used.
  • the use of uv-vis and IR data to analysis and detection of chemical species
  • an critical understanding of the use of fluorescence labelling in the context of life sciences and crime detection
  • awareness of light scattering techniques to detect particulate matter and their impact on air quality monitoring
  • critical interpretation, understanding and evaluation of mass spectrometry data from a range of scientific contexts (e.g. drug synthesis to oceanography)
  • an awareness of the principles of advanced mass spectrometry techniques.
  • a critical awareness of mass spectrometry applications in areas such as drug testing, explosives detection.
  • interpretation and assignment of NMR spectroscopic data as a tool for structural elucidation


The philosophy underlying this course is to empower students to take charge of their own learning in the area of analytical methodology. As a consequence the course will make extensive use of directed and peer-assisted self-learning methods. The course will be delivered in the context of four areas of analytical science: Interaction of electromagnetic radiation and matter - This includes: uv-vis spectroscopy; IR spectroscopy; fluorescence; use of fluorescence in security and biology; THz spectroscopy/imaging; scattering from particles. Mass spectrometry - This includes: mass spectrometry principles; ionization techniques; low and high mass resolution; principles of MS/MS, hyphenated techniques; use of MS in structural elucidation, isotope mass ratio spectrometry, and proteomics NMR spectroscopy - This includes: fundamentals of liquid state NMR spectroscopy (nucelar spin I=1/2, I>1/2 nuclei); chemical shift, integration; spin coupling; interpretation of 1D NMR data; 2D NMR (homonuclear and heteronuclear); application of liquid state NMR to structural elucidation. Chromatography This includes: chromatography principles; retention, resolution; selectivity; types of chromatography (HPLC, GC, TLC);

Learning and Teaching

Independent Study100
Total study time150



Workshop activities


MethodPercentage contribution
Assessment 70%
Research proposal 30%
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