Chemists Inspire at Baird Celebration Day

In the sunshine of Ettrick Bay, on the Isle of Bute, researchers from the School of Chemistry delivered engaging hands-on activities to inspire the locals to take an interest in science

The annual event was also graced this year by two impressive Scots – Sir David MacMillan and David Mackay, who were the 2023 recipients of the Baird of Bute Scottish Innovation and Scottish Aviation Award. Recent Nobel Laureate David MacMillan (2021 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “the development of asymmetric organocatalysis”) and the first Scot in Space David Mackay (Chief Pilot of Virgin Galactic and former RAF test pilot) served as a reminder of the great things our small country can achieve.

As a nod to their careers, the hands-on activities the school delivered were linked to rockets, molecular shapes and catalysts. Professor Eleanor Campbell (a Bute-native and a previous recipient of the Scottish Innovation Award), Professor Dominic Campopiano and PhD students Kyle Barlow, Eleanor Birch and Emily Hanover were all on hand to help visitors build their straw rockets and blast rockets into the air using a classic neutralisation reaction. They also discussed how mirror molecules (enantiomers) work using visual props and demonstrated a foaming catalyst at work.

Safety glasses and lab coats of all sizes were on hand to allow visitors to dress up and visualise themselves as a lab-based chemist. An outreach favourite of creating giant bubbles also worked well in the open field as locals explored the science behind surface tension chemistry.

The Baird of Bute society proudly celebrates the achievements of Andrew Blain Baird, a son of Bute who historically achieved the “First Attempted All-Scottish heavier-than-air powered flight” in September 1910 in a flying machine of his own construction. The aim of the society is “to inspire to aspire”, encouraging young locals to achieve greatness in their own ways.


isle of bute booth photo