Royal Society of Chemistry Theatre

The Royal Society of Chemistry Theatre

2019 has been designated by UNESCO as the International Year of the Periodic Table (IYPT), marking the 150th anniversary of the Mendeleev periodic table, which is an iconic image and a vital tool to all who learn and work in science, at all stages of their learning and careers. 

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is celebrating the IYPT in its dedicated theatre, with presentations concentrating on ‘Exploring the weird and wonderful world of the periodic table’ on the first day, and ‘Elements of our future world’ on day two. The RSC’s two keynote speakers will also be reflecting on the theme.


Take a look below to see the confirmed speakers and topics so far.

Keynote speakers banner

Helen Arney

Helen Arney

Science presenter and geek songstress




Andrea Sella

Andrea Sella

Mercury - Should you be afraid of The Element of Science?



Wednesday 30 October

Exploring the weird and wonderful world of the Periodic Table 

10.15 - 10.30 Welcome
10.30 - 11.00 Mining the scrapheap
11.00 - 12.00 Super Heavy
13.00 - 13.45 Mercury - should you be afraid of the element of science?
14.00 - 14.30 Astro Chemistry
14.30 - 15.00 Cleaning up waste from Nuclear processing?
15.00 - 15.30 How to write an effective funding application

Thursday 31 October 

Elements and our future world

10:15 - 10.30 Welcome
10.30 - 11.00 The challenges associated with the growing demand for rare earth metals
11.00 - 11.30 Rare earth metals and magnet recycling 
11.30 - 12.00 Lithium Ion Battery recycling
13.00 - 13.45 Helen Arney, Science presenter and geek songstress
14.00 - 14.30 Uranium: Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde of the Periodic Table
14.30 - 15.00 Using the Periodic Table in our GC-MS analyses

Wednesday 30 October

10.15 - 10.30

Phillip Broadwith


Welcome, Phillip Broadwith, Chemistry World

10.30 - 11.00

Prof Jason Love

Mining the scrapheap

Professor Jason Love, Professor of Molecular Inorganic Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

Modern technologies depend on metals from across the periodic table and their recycling is crucial for an environmentally benign and societally beneficial circular economy. This session will highlight metal recycling from electronic waste with a focus on the recycling of gold and separation of the rare-earth elements.

11.00 - 12.00

Kit Chapman

How to create an element

Kit Chapman, Freelance writer

To celebrate the 150th year of the periodic table, Kit will explore the edge of known chemistry and reveal how teams around the world are racing to create the latest elements.

13.00 - 13.45


Mercury - should you be afraid of the element of science?

Professor Andrea Sella, UCL

How many of you have every worked (or even played) with the element mercury? Until recently it was THE element of science, yet today it is feared and reviled. This talk will explore how mercury came to underpin the sciences, and why it is one of the key indicators of change to our planet. 

14.00 - 14.30

Dr June McCombie

The Chemical Cosmos

Dr June McCombie, Senior Research Officer, The University of Nottingham

Using telescopes to explore the boundaries of our universe and the chemistry taking place there 

Chemistry plays a crucial role in controlling the evolutionary cycle where stars are formed from vast clouds of gas and dust, then age and then die either simply by cooling down or in the spectacular brilliance of an exploding star. We will take a look at how astrochemists explore this cosmos using the tools of a chemist and an astronomer.

14.30 - 15.00

Sarah Wilson Sellafield

70 years of Nuclear Processing

Sarah Wilson, Technical Manager, Sellafield Ltd


A brief review of the nuclear processing methods which have been carried out over the past 70 years and a look at what the future holds. Including the challenges of reprocessing, the wastes produced and how those wastes can be reused.

15.00 - 15.30

Julie Franklin

How to write an effective funding application

Julie FranklinCareer and Professional Development Adviser, Royal Society of Chemistry. 

Finding someone to fund your ideas is crucial for all scientists. Just having a good idea isn’t enough, you have to sell your vision to the funder. This session will show you how to write grant proposals to access research and business funding.



Thursday 31 October

10.15 - 10.30

Phillip Broadwith


Welcome, Phillip Broadwith, Chemistry World

10.30 - 11.00

Gareth Hatch

The challenges associated with the growing demand for rare earth metals

Gareth Hatch, Managing Director, Strategic Materials Advisors

Rare-earth elements (REEs) are the ‘vitamins’ of our technological age, enabling a wide range of magnetic, electronic, optical, catalytic and other applications. This session will take a look at the supply and demand dynamics for REEs, and their increasingly critical role in everything from the electric-vehicle revolution to the current US-China trade dispute.

11.00 - 11.30

Alan Walton

Recycling of Rare earth magnets

Professor Allan Walton, Professor of Critical and Magnetic Materials, Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements & Critical Materials 

This talk will cover the challenges encountered in recycling rare earth magnets in end of life products including automotive, electronics and loudspeakers. Prof Walton will then outline the possible solutions to these problems including sensing and robotic sorting of waste, extraction technologies and multiple methods of remanufacture. 




11.30 - 12.00

Gavin Harper

Lithium Ion Battery Recycling

Gavin Harper, Faraday Institution Research Fellow, Birmingham Centre for Strategic Elements & Critical Materials, University of Birmingham

As the number of electric vehicles on our roads grows, Lithium Ion Batteries will present both a waste management problem, and also an opportunity to secure resources for future battery production. This session examines recycling methods for the recovery of Critical Materials from automotive batteries.

13.00 - 13.45

Helen Arney

Keynote: Science presenter and geek songstress

Helen will be mixing songs and stand-up in a unique take on the Periodic Table. Expect witty tunes about her favourite elements, and some of the less popular ones that might need a bit of a make-over... And, of course, she’ll be singing her new version of Tom Lehrer’s “Elements” - from Hydrogen to all the way Oganesson. 


14.00 - 14.30

Prof Steve Liddle

Uranium: Dr Jekyll or Mr Hyde of the Periodic Table?

Professor Steve Liddle, Professor and Head of Inorganic Chemistry; Co-Director, Centre for Radiochemistry Research, The University of Manchester 

This talk will deliver a brief history of the actinides and how they fit into the Periodic Table, discuss how the Periodic Table is ‘wrong’, debate perceptions of uranium, right and wrong, regarding its role in nuclear technologies, and cover how molecular chemistry can address Legacy nuclear waste challenges.



14.30 - 15.00

Diane Turner

Using the Periodic Table in our GC-MS analyses

Dr Diane Turner, Senior Consultant & Director, Anthias Consulting Limited, President-elect of RSC ADC

When developing a GC-MS method it is best to start from the basics, the chemistry of the molecules to be separated and detected. The talk will discuss the different elements encountered when performing GC-MS analysis, the problems associated with certain elements and properties of others which help in the identification of these molecules.