Early into his VCE studies, 2019 Year 12 student Lachie Alexander discovered what he describes as an “intense passion” for chemistry. Lachie has since chosen to study Science (Advanced Research) at Monash University. With the addition of the Analytical Science Hub at ELTHAM College, Lachie was able to explore many areas of chemistry while at high school.
Think ELTHAM, the College’s student-organised teaching showcase, provided the perfect platform for Lachie to further extend his skills in analytical chemistry and science communication.
Lachie developed an hour-long workshop that allowed members of the broader community, some as young as 12 years old, to use state-of-the-art research equipment such as High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) Spectroscopy for forensic analysis. Normally such pursuits would only be available to adults working in research, government or industry laboratories.
Albert Einstein famously said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. Lachie not only made highly technical and complex analytical techniques accessible and understandable to a much younger audience, but he also made them engaging and entertaining. Lachie’s workshop was the most popular amongst the members of the public that participated on the day. The educational value of his workshop was so impressive that a slightly modified version was incorporated into the Year 5 – 6 Science program at ELTHAM College.
Lachie plans to continue using the Analytical Science Hub to pursue his own research interests, which utilise HPLC to measure the amount of carcinogens in food. Lachie also hopes to publish his scientific research performed at the College – a move that will open many doors for him in the future.
When asked about his thoughts on the educational value of the Analytical Science Hub, Lachie replied, “The opportunity I have to use this equipment truly is a special one. Not only do I have the chance to apply my own knowledge and skills to a practical situation with research-class equipment – something applicable to real-world research scenarios – but I also have the ability to transfer these skills to a younger audience and allow them to just scratch the surface of what can be done with this technology. The chance to get kids interested in science as advanced as this at their level of understanding is amazing, and I hope for it to kick-start a generation of brilliant scientific minds.”