Celebrating 2020 Young Scientist Awardees - Chemistry


Alessandro Biles 

Investigating the Effect of Changing the Concentration of Sand in Soil

How does changing the concentration of sand in soil affect plant growth over time? Alessandro’s project indicated that whilst a small inclusion of sand in the soil will assist with plant growth as sand improves the soil drainage however  as the concentration of sand increases in soil, the growth of plants slows.  This is due to too much water drainage from the soil and a reduction of nutrients available for the plants.

Lucy Davis

Depth Study - Bonding

Lucy conducted a review of the various types of intermolecular and intramolecular bonding. She explored the relationships between atoms and molecules in greater depth by constructing a range of models.

Danielle Gibson

Advance Australian Fare

For thousands of years Australia’s aborigines thrived on the country’s wide variety of flora and fauna. But are the native bush fruits as healthy as we are led to believe? Danielle investigated the sugar content of native bush fruits and their juice and compared their sugar content with non-indigenous fruit species. Danielle’s results indicated that Australian Native fruits generally have lower sugar content than fresh and frozen pears and thus could be a healthier alternative in our diet. 

Annabelle Strachan


This investigation explores whether lemons are a feasible bio-flocculant, being an accessible, safe, affordable and environmentally-friendly water treatment option. Using a flocculant composed of 2g chitosan and varying amounts of dried lemon peel, and determining the Turbidity Efficiency Removal on various samples, Annabelle determined that a flocculant containing approximately 33% lemon peel was most effective.

Jacinda Tjiantoro

The Impact of Different Hair Conditioner Brands on the Strength of Hair

Jacinda’s project tested which brand of hair conditioner would prevent human hair from breaking. She determined this by measuring the amount of weight human hair can hold and to identify the conditioner that allows the hair to hold the most weight. The experiments carried out indicated that conditioner brands such as Schwarzkopf, OGX and L’Oréal Paris Elvive will strengthen human hair.

Sarah Nolan

The effect of pH on RNA absorption and liberation on mineral surfaces

Is there life on Mars? With her interest in astrobiology and her dream to work at NASA, Sarah may be the first person to find out. Her experiment measured how changing the pH of an RNA solution affects the amount of RNA liberated off a mineral surface. The impact changing pH has on the absorption rate of RNA has provided insight into the theory that life began in land-based hot springs. Sarah’s results provided strong evidence for the ‘complexity’ of the hot spring environment as the results demonstrated minerals absorb RNA at varying rates.

Katie Maddock 

False Positive in Blood Detection Using the Hemastix Test

Hemastix, used primarily in forensic applications, is a plastic strip with a special reagent material at the tip that detects the presence of blood. Despite this, the Hemastix Test has been known to produce false positive readings when testing substances other than blood, such as horseradish, tomato sauce and onions. While Katie found that onions do produce a weak false positive result, the potato family produced an unexpectedly high false positive result. So proceed with caution when using similar testing kits to detect the presence of blood. 

Yiting Shen

Determining the rate law of crystal violet and sodium hydroxide

When studying Senior Chemistry you quickly learn that every reaction involves a complex mechanism where the rate of a reaction is dependent on both the concentrations of the reactants and the ratio of their proportions. Always willing to challenge herself, Emily used a spectrophotometer and two analytical methods to experimentally determine the reaction order of crystal violet and sodium hydroxide. For both methods she found that they combine in a 1:1 ratio, demonstrating the reaction is a classic first order reaction.

Emily Roberts

Painting to Protect

The toxic effects of common fire retardant products, such as paints, are widely acknowledged and prevalent. They contain a range of toxic chemicals. This investigation had the purpose of exploring potential less toxic paint retardant alternatives (sodium borate, potassium alum, sodium bicarbonate and vinegar). Emily’s project indicates the addition of sodium borate, sodium bicarbonate and vinegar can  improve the paint’s fire retardant qualities.

Sarah Ge

Moody mackerel or mackerel moody? Histamine in mackerel: The best way to store Spanish mackerel in order to reduce your chances of histamine poisoning and related anxiety disorders.

The aim of this investigation was to determine the best treatment of Spanish mackerel that would reduce the histamine concentration content in the sample. Sarah treated the mackerel with unsweetened almond milk, red wine, lemon juice, clear vodka and water and the extracts analysed using “RIDASCREEN Histamine (enzymatic)” kits. The results indicated that the treatments of unsweetened almond milk or clear vodka would reduce the histamine concentration in Spanish mackerel, and thus are potentially useful in reducing the incidence of histamine poisoning.