Chemistry Wonderland: UCT's 'Alice in Wonder Lab' Sparks Curiosity and Laughter!

13 Dec 2023 | By Laa-iqa Rylands
The cast and backstage crew

The cast and backstage crew: Back Row- Jarid, Joseph, Tienie; Middle Row- Natailia, Cristabel,

Nicole, Leah, Megan, Taella, Larnelle; Front Row- Relebohile, Melissa, Shannon, Tayla, Sophie,

Sakeenah and Laa-iqa

13 Dec 2023 | By Laa-iqa Rylands

The Royal Society of Chemistry, in collaboration with the UCT Chemistry Department, hosted their highly anticipated annual interactive lecture for children titled "Alice in Wonder Lab" on Thursday, 30th November 2023.

Held at UCT in P.D Hahn Building, Lecture Theatre 1, the event featured a captivating play that took the audience on an unexpected journey into the wacky depths of Wonder Lab. The plot unfolded in an ordinary chemistry lecture where Alice embarked on an extraordinary adventure filled with strange characters, played by a talented cast, including the grinning Schrodinger’s cat, a stopwatch-wielding lab rabbit, and a Mad Hatter’s departmental tea party. The storyline climaxed with a face-off with a salty (NaCl) Queen, leaving the audience enchanted and curious.

The event, an annual tradition in the Department of Chemistry, originated from the initiative of UCT lecturer Jack Elsworth, who started giving annual public lecture–demonstrations. This year's edition carried special significance as Prof. Jack Elsworth's wife, Dr Margaret Elsworth, who played a crucial role in the Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (Shawco), was remembered. A/Prof. David Gammon, providing a brief introductory, expressed the department's commitment to continue paying tribute to Jack Elsworth and inspiring youth to find joy in chemistry.

The creative minds behind the success of this year's lecture were Megan Coetzee and Leah Amod, RSC/SACI student representatives, and UCT Chemistry postgraduate students. Prof. Roger Hunter, as the narrator, delivered an engaging performance, earning applause from the audience.

The collaborative effort of postgraduate students, PASS staff, and academics was evident, with volunteers dedicating their time to ensure the play's success. Dr Eileen Murray, a retired scientific officer, played a crucial role by mentoring students and staff involved in planning experiments. The production not only entertained but also provided a welcome break for students from their demanding postgraduate research projects.

Dr Murray expressed her satisfaction with the outcome, stating, "The Jack Elsworth lecture was a wonderful evening and a big success." The Royal Society of Chemistry and SACI were acknowledged for their donations, and gratitude was extended to all the dedicated volunteers, staff, and students who contributed to making the event a memorable success. The "Alice in Wonder Lab" lecture proved once again that science and imagination can combine to create an enchanting experience for audiences of all ages, fostering a love for chemistry and scientific exploration among the youth.