Mersey pupils put crime analysis to the ‘flame’ test

09 June 2011

A team of Forensic Chemists recently took over LJMU labs at Byrom Street to solve a murder mystery.

The 11 to 14 year old school pupils from across the North West partaking in the annual Salters’ Festival of Chemistry, this year experienced the use of flame tests to solve the “Who Dunnit?” murder mystery devised by experts at the University. The competitive, hands on practical activity uses the principles of chemistry to provide vital clues in solving crimes. Different chemical samples taken from clothing belonging to suspects were put to the flame test in order to identify the metal parts of salts, which when combined with other experiments and clues provided in the Police Report, to establish who committed a murder .

LJMU’s Dr Ian Bradshaw, who organised the event, said: “We have found that this is a great event to get school pupils involved in science and encourage post-16 study in this area. It certainly works to highlight how many different opportunities there are in the field.”

Travelling from the Isle of Man, teacher Madeleine Westall from King Williams College said that the trip was definitely worth it for the wow factor, as this was the first time the pupils had been at a university and it was fantastic for LJMU to open up their facilities in this way.

West Kirby Grammar School teacher Ann Freeman also commented: “Events like this certainly encourage students into pursuing science in further education and as a career. Even at this age access to the equipment and laboratories at LJMU is very inspiring and something they will remember.”

Lucy and Holly, in Year 8 at West Kirby Grammar School (pictured)

Holly commented: “We really enjoy science and coming to the University has been a reward. It’s interactive and fun and it certainly leads into what I want to do. I want a career as a vet and I will need chemistry as part of this.”

Kathryn Bruce a teacher at Cheadle Hulme School said: “This really gives the pupils a taste of what it’s like to be in a university in a challenging but fun environment which leaves a lasting impression.”

Hal (13) from Cheadle Hulme School (also pictured above) said: “I think it is important for people our age to see what universities can offer. I enjoy science, especially chemistry, but it’s also an opportunity for us to feedback to other pupils on how good events like this are. This is my first time in a lab like this and using the equipment and feeling like I’m part of a university is great.”

The Salters' Festivals of Chemistry, in partnership with The Royal Society of Chemistry, are initiatives of The Salters' Institute, whose aim is to promote the appreciation of chemistry and related sciences among the young. The Festival at LJMU is one of a series of fifty-three Festivals which are taking place at Universities throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland between March and June 2011.

The experiments are also linked to the national curriculum.

Schools taking part in 2011: Bebington High Sports College (additional school), Cheadle Hulme School, Hillside High School, King William's College, Kingsmead School, St. Edward's College, The Catholic High School – Chester, The Whitby High School, Upton Hall School, West Kirby Grammar School, Wirral Grammar School for Boys.

Salter Challenge ("Murder" Experiment)

1. King Williams College (Isle of Man)
2. Cheadle Hulme School (Team 2)
3 Wirral Grammar School for Boys (Team 2)

University Challenge ("Iodine Clock" Experiment)

1. West Kirby Grammar School (Team 1)
2. St Edward's College
3. Hillside High School (Team 2)

See the story on the Echo website at:

Page last modified by Corporate Communications on 09 June 2011.
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