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The doors of the Department of Chemistry were open once again for the annual Chemistry Open Day on 18 March 2017. More than 2000 people, many of them children, visited the department and took part in numerous workshops and demonstrations.

Vsitors to the department took the opportunity to don white coats – including a 3-year-old in a lab coat down to his ankles, open mouthed in the battery fruit zone – in wonderment or hunger? It was hard to tell.

Deputy Heads Nick Bampos and James Keeler were handing out safety glasses and directing traffic. Meanwhile, Professor Jonathan Nitschke, whose group researches complex matter through molecular self-assembly, gamely bounced through a vat of cornflower slime. He lingered slightly too long and sank up to his calves in goo, before aptly demonstrating how to get out of quicksand – very,  very, very, slooooowly.

There was goo absolutely everywhere. Goo being shaped into rubber balls, goo floating around in newly created lava lamps. Goo in the Cybercaf. Guanglu Wu and Magda Olesinkska showed people how to make supramolecular  and Maureen Georges demonstrated edible cold goo, using liquid nitrogen to make ice-cream.

There was also an oasis of quietness in the Todd-Hamied room. People sat for hours in the modeling zone diligently piecing together molecular structures of Menthol, Adenine, Jasmone, Caffeine, DEET, Camphor, Indigo dye – it was beautiful.

One mother said, “I’ve been coming to this event for 16 years. I brought all four of my girls and it’s so exciting and inspiring for them. In fact, one of my girls is now studying theoretical chemistry - sadly at Oxford but hey! Another parent added: “We think this event is so good we bring a group from Camberwell in Southwark, one of the poorest boroughs of London, and they’re so bowled over by it. Cambridge.” A third adult remarked: “Sometimes the explanations are brilliant, sometimes not but I’ve always found the children are questioning and curious and the students engage with the them at the right level.”

Over 100 staff members, postdocs, PhDs and undergraduate volunteers helped to make the day go very smoothly. Huge ‘Thanks’ to everyone who took part.

We gratefully acknowledge the continued support of the The Walters Kundert Charitable Trust for making Chemistry Open Day possible.