Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update From SciChem

With many business beginning to return to work and schools starting phased re-openings following recent UK government guidance, we wanted to provide a further update on the measures we’re taking to ensure your safety and that of our colleagues and suppliers, as well as share operational information on what you can expect from us in terms of supporting your needs as we all continue to move forward.

Placing Orders

We understand the critical importance of keeping our supplies to you flowing as normal. We’re still open and taking orders online, over the phone and by email. Our business hours remain the same and our teams are available to assist you with anything you might need from us; please don’t hesitate to get in touch if there’s anything we can do to support you during this time.

Our trade counter at our head office in Bilston also remains open for orders placed in advance over the phone, with payments being card only.

Stock Availability and Order Fulfilment

Whilst we continue to supply our customers with much-needed equipment, we are inevitably experiencing delays in replenishing stock of certain items—particularly PPE and cleaning agents—due to the extremely high demand for these products and interruptions to the supply chain. We appreciate that this has an impact on you, and we’re working hard to mitigate this by improving our supply as fast as possible. Our supply to you is our top priority, and you can find the latest available PPE from us on our online stores.

We are also experiencing disruption to order fulfilment as a result of issues faced by our couriers. We’re remaining in close contact with our logistics partners to support them, however these issues are unfortunately beyond our control at this time.

We’d strongly recommend including a contact telephone number with every order, as this will help to prevent unnecessary delays with our couriers.

Our advice right now would be to place your order sooner rather than later if possible; this ensures that the stock you need will be available to you now, whilst also giving you plenty of time to receive your order well in advance without impacting your operations.

Ensuring Safety

Like every other business, we have had to make changes to the way our colleagues work so that we can continue to serve your needs.

Our colleagues are continuing to work remotely where possible. Where this is not possible, we have made the following changes to ensure the safety of our team:

  • We have implemented social distancing measures, such as opening up additional packing lines and spacing out desks of office workers, to minimise proximity to one another
  • We continue to adhere to rules that colleagues must wear PPE at all times
  • We are upholding our strict cleaning regime for equipment, worktops and hand-washing.

We will continue to follow these practices to make the work environment as safe as possible for our colleagues, and we are continuing to closely monitor UK government guidance on how to best maintain a safe workplace for our team.

A Message From SciChem’s CEO (Coronavirus/COVID-19 Update)

Dear Customers and Partners,

As the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation continues to evolve, I’d like to take a moment to personally update you on the actions SciChem is taking to ensure your safety, and that of our colleagues and suppliers.

The safety and wellbeing of our customers, colleagues and suppliers is our top priority. We are closely monitoring the UK Government’s guidance regarding the spread of the coronavirus and have set up a dedicated task force to help ensure our customers, colleagues and partners are kept updated as the situation develops.

Never before has the world needed science so much, and we understand the critical importance of keeping our supplies to you flowing as normal. By keeping people safe, we believe we will be best placed to continue to serve your needs, in order that you, in turn can keep operating. Whilst we know that there are many sectors which are severely affected by lock-downs and shut-downs, we are highly aware and sensitive to the needs of our customers, many of whom are in supply-critical sectors that must keep operating no matter what. We share in your stoicism and are equally determined to keep operating to assure your lab operations can continue to run safely 24/7/365.

Here’s what we at SciChem are doing:

  • We have implemented remote working for office-based colleagues, to reduce the risk of infection to our warehouse and logistics team
  • We have implemented multiple preventative measures, including further distancing of our warehouse team by opening up additional packing lines, implementing the wearing of gloves, and ensuring the frequent use of hand-washing, hand sanitiser and general cleaning—we now wash door handles, door plates, keyboards, desktops and benchtops multiple times per day with anti-viral cleaning agents and alcohol wipes, with a ‘use-once-only’ policy for any cleaning cloths or wipes
  • We have implemented Skype for Business as a standard means of communication in place of customer meetings
  • We have instructed any employees who are unwell to stay home and self-isolate—a practice we first implemented some weeks ago
  • We have worked with our colleagues to understand that while we live in a time of what seems to be outward fear, it is important to remain inwardly calm and sensible—this ‘mindful’ practice is essential to feeling that we can and will get through this together.

Of course, our continuity of supply to you remains our priority, and by taking the above measures, we believe we are best placed to ensure we serve your needs accordingly.

We are also working non-stop to improve supply of sought-after hand sanitisers, disinfectants, cleaning agents and personal protective equipment including face masks, as fast as possible.

I believe that together we will come out stronger on the other side. If there are ways that we can help you through this, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

Together with my colleagues, I thank you for your ongoing custom and partnership, and look forward to continuing to be of service today, and every day.

Yours Sincerely,

Oliver Birkwood

PASCO Scientific Debuts the //code.Node, a Game Changer for STEM Education

Last week, PASCO Scientific announced the debut of the //code.Node, a first-of-its-kind product that will allow students to collect real-time data using code.

Students around the world are captivated by coding activities. Whether they’re encoding a robot, light, or system, they are excited and engaged. The //code.Node brings that coding excitement to data collection using wireless sensors and visual feedback to teach coding skills that produce analysis-ready data, said Richard Briscoe, President and CEO of PASCO Scientific.

The //code.Node is a revolutionary device that uses Blockly, sensors, and feedback to teach students coding skills and data literacy. The pocket-size coding solution includes encodable sensors for light, motion, sound, and magnetic fields, as well as a speaker, RGB light, and a 5×5 LED array. Using PASCO software and the //code.Node, students can create custom experiments that range from simple data collection to advanced, measurement-based sensory feedback. As they execute their code, students collect real-time data and visual feedback that helps them improve with each activity.

Coding activities are a highly effective tool for student engagement, but they rarely satisfy both ISTE and local standards. The //code.Node is the first educational solution to demonstrate how coding relates to data collection and analysis. It’s no longer about simply learning to code; it’s about coding to learn, said Briscoe.

The //code.Node is a preview of PASCO’s 2020 focus, Code to Learn. Learn to Code. The company recently integrated Blockly into both SPARKvue and Capstone to provide learners with an expansive yet intuitive coding platform. Students can develop their coding skills by encoding any of PASCO’s wireless sensors, testing code in real time, and analyzing their collected data.

PASCO Scientific will release a series of //code.Node labs to assist school learners in developing future preparedness for code-derived data collection. The //code.Node will make its public debut later this month at Bett Show 2020 in London, and will begin shipping in April 2020.

Learn More About //code.Node

Winners of Our Microscope Challenge Competition Announced

Our home counties territory manager, Gillian Jurdon, recently hosted a microscope challenge for entrants to submit images of something interesting under a microscope. The top prize for the winning entry was a BMS037 microscope and a £25 SciChem voucher, with runners up receiving a microslide viewer or a £10 voucher.

The judges have selected their winner and runners up, and their submissions are below!

Winner: The Oratory School, Woodcote

Microscope image of a bee sting

Bee sting by the science club at The Oratory School, Woodcote.

Runner-Up: Altwood Church of England School, Maidenhead

Microscope image of a Wood Wasp's egg inside its ovipositor

Wood Wasp’s egg inside its ovipositor by Altwood Church of England School.

Runner-Up: Cambourne Village College

Microscope image of coloured tissue

Coloured tissue by the science club at Cambourne Village College.

Runner-Up: Westbourne Academy

Microscope image of thermochromic paper

Thermochromic paper by Westbourne Academy.

Special Mention: Waterbeach Community Primary School

Painting of an onion cell

Painting of an onion cell by Edward, a year 6 student at Waterbeach Community Primary School who has Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Newest West Bromwich Academy Opens for the First Time

A brand-new multi-academy trust secondary school opened its doors for the first time this month, and we were delighted to play our part in helping the school prepare for its grand opening.

West Bromwich Collegiate Academy opened to 175 year 7 pupils on Wednesday 4th September 2019. Shireland Collegiate Academy Trust will run the school, who have a proven track record of outstanding Oftsed inspections for schools in Smethwick, Sandwell and the wider Black Country area.

Exterior of West Bromwich Collegiate Academy's front entrance

The academy is three storeys tall with 15 classrooms, a large dining hall, a library, and even includes a suite for pupils with disabilities and special educational needs. Each year, another set of pupils will enrol until it reaches its capacity of 750, with the academy hosting an open evening for years 5 and 6 pupils last week.

Although the academy already includes dedicated science rooms, a second phase of construction is slated to begin in July 2020 which will expand the academy for its future intake of pupils and includes plans for a fully-fledged science department. This expansion will open September 2021.

Science classroom in West Bromwich Collegiate Academy

The academy’s staff worked tirelessly over the summer to prepare for opening, and we were delighted to help play our part in supporting the science team in their preparations.

We were asked by the academy to provide consultation and offer advice on what will work best for their setup. This included supplying their furniture and racking, as well as fully stocking the prep room ready for this year’s science lessons.

Several cartridge burners arranged on top of a cabinet in a science prep room

As the science classrooms don’t have a gas supply, these cartridge burners are an ideal alternative to Bunsen burners for the academy.

Sara Burns, our Territory Manager for the Midlands and North Wales, was on hand every step of the way to support the academy.

Talking about the academy opening, Sara said: It’s satisfying being able to take on a project like this and see it through from start to finish, supporting the development of a brand new school which will serve the community for many years to come.

Close-up of head and shoulders of a human skeleton model in a prep room

This human skeleton model was just one of many products we stocked the prep room with.

As a new academy they had to start from scratch, so it was also exciting being able to take a look at their entire setup and supply them with equipment for all aspects of their science education, Sara added.

We’re looking forward to seeing how West Bromwich Collegiate Academy progresses and to supporting their science education needs throughout the future.

Senior Science Technician in Bristol Wins Top Prize for Her Technician Tip

You might remember that back in March we ran a competition asking science technicians across the country to share their top technician tips and tricks for the prep room which help them stay organised and ahead of the game.

We’re delighted to announce that Sharen Cordy RSciTech, Senior Science Technician at Orchard School in Bristol, was chosen as the lucky winner of our competition for her tip on microscale diffusion of potassium permanganate crystals! Her prize was a science day out for two in August at the National Space Centre, plus dinner and a hotel stay in Leicester.

We caught up with Sharon afterwards to see if she enjoyed the prize and she had this to say:

“Once I’d submitted my prep room tip I’d totally forgotten about the competition, so when SciChem rang me to tell me I was the winner I was really surprised!

I asked my friend Elaine if she would like to go with me (much to my husband’s dismay!), and once we’d worked out a date, we decided to add on an extra night at the hotel.

The day arrived and we set off, stopping in Coventry for a spa session and afternoon tea, which was a great start to our road trip!

We drove on a bit further to Leicester. We were booked into the Ramada which was in central Leicester. The hotel was great—just what we needed! Once we were settled in, we headed out for a bit of retail therapy and some drinks, and to work out the best way to get to the National Space Centre the next day.

The following morning we headed out by bus to the National Space Centre, which was a quick journey and there was no queue to get in. Once inside there was so much to see! The exhibits were great and there was lots of interactive stuff to do. We had a planetarium show which was really good.

When we came out of the show it had gotten busy! There was lots of information about Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station, which was brilliant as we both have an interest in this.

The best part of the day was spent there, and I’d highly recommended anyone to visit. It’s so hard to have a favourite part of it, as it was all fantastic!

Part of my prize was a dinner which was booked at Zizzi—we had a fab meal and then headed out for a bit afterwards to enjoy the night.

I want to give a massive thanks to SciChem for selecting me as a winner, we both had an amazing time!”

The competition was run for #TECHOGNITION 2019, a week-long event celebrating the unsung heroes of science departments in schools across the country.

Sharen’s competition-winning tip was for microscale diffusion of potassium permanganate crystals:

Laminated sheets with a 2p-sized circle with a line down the middle. Tiny circle to the left. Students fill the large circle with cold water using a pipette. Place one crystal in the tiny circle. Using the pipette, push the crystal to the edge of the droplet—do not agitate the droplet—start the stop clock. Time how long it takes for the purple colour to reach the line. Repeat steps 1–4 with warm water.

SciChem Welcomes Ryan Coleman to the Marketing Team

We’re delighted to announce that we’re expanding our SciChem marketing team this month with the appointment of Ryan Coleman to the role of Digital Marketing Executive.

Ryan brings seven years of experience in the sports and leisure sector with him to the role, having previously worked in digital marketing for a registered UK water safety education charity.

Specialising in website development and email marketing, Ryan’s role involves improving our customers’ experience with SciChem by connecting with them through the web, email and our social media channels.

Ryan had this to say on joining the team:

“I want to help the schools and businesses that rely on SciChem for their lab equipment and chemical supplies by strengthening this connection with them—meeting them online where they’re spending an ever-increasing amount of time.

SciChem has a great reputation for quality and service, so I’m really looking forward to applying my skills and experience here to build upon that and develop SciChem digitally.”

From Recovery to Discovery… Meet Our Champ!

“I’ve learned some great life lessons. If I set my mind to something, I can accomplish anything.”

Back in February of 2018 our Scotland Account Coordinator, Lynsey Christie, competed in the Eastern District Division of powerlifting and won! She then decided she would try the next step and go after the Scottish Championship. She was delighted when on Sunday 12th of August 2018 she became Scotland’s Masters Champion in the 84+ M1 category taking not only the gold, but three new Scottish records in Back Squat, Deadlift and 400Kg final total lifted!

With three chances to lift in each discipline, she finished with 152.5Kg Back Squat, 75Kg Bench Press, and 172.5Kg Deadlift. Plus, with eight other strong women in Lynsey’s category, it was not an easy competition, but with the sport is becoming more and more popular amongst women and continuing to grow each year, it’s not surprising.

“I have always liked to take up hobbies that are not quite the norm, just to challenge myself and powerlifting was one of these challenges. How heavy you can lift is a personal challenge and it requires lots of training and plugging away each night in the gym, working on your technique and binging up those numbers week-by-week, kilo by kilo. It gives you a sense of achievement that your hard work has paid off when you stand on that platform and pull out your personal bests.” Lynsey explained.

Her achievement in winning the championships is made more special by the story behind it. Her previous sport was mixed martial arts and boxing and she was becoming quite an accomplished dressage horse rider. But seven years ago that was all brought to a stop when she got diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, and it was soon discovered to have spread up through her right arm. It led to operations that, unfortunately, to remove the tumours, they had to cut nerves and tendons in her arm, leaving her with the uncertainty if she ever would have use of it again, let alone compete in anything!

Following recovery from rigorous treatment of chemo and radiotherapy, and never to be defeated by a challenge, she took up the mission of her own rehab to get use of her arm back again. Her first challenge was getting her fingers moving; once she got these in motion there was no stopping her!

It was straight off to the pool using water resistance to move her hand and wrist, once that was done, she went onto weights, working on holding weights, then seeing how long she could hold them for and then increasing the weight of them. The deep concentration she had to endure trying to flex her fingers, wiggle her thumb and move her wrist was all instrumental in helping her towards the goal of weightlifting.

The rigors of cancer treatment meant her body could no longer do the same sports as she used to, things were harder, recovery was slower and everything hurt. The other downside to the regime of chemo is that it attacks joints and bones, weakening them. The skeleton on its own is weak, but building muscle around your frame like scaffolding and then putting this under tension, means that things that weren’t stable before became solid and bones strengthen.

This opened the gateway to Powerlifting. The more she learned in the gym, the more she found herself being drawn down the path to see what she could do and learning that when she has a goal, like a competition, it gives her more focus to push herself forward. What set out as a mission to move her fingers became an adventure where she’s met some great people, had some fantastic experiences, and made personal achievements.

“I’ve learned some great life lessons. If I set my mind to something, I can accomplish anything.” Lynsey told us, “It doesn’t matter what anyone else does, the only person you are in competition with is yourself.”

And she has proven that she can do anything – as a cancer survivor, with a right arm that can pull a 172.5Kg deadlift, as a Scottish Champion and as a record holder!

17 Prep Room Tips to Help You Stay Organised as Shared by Science Technicians

Ranging from general science know-how to perfecting your skills, these science technicians prep room tips will help you make the most out of everyday science apparatus and save you precious time.

1. Microscale Diffusion of Potassium Permanganate Crystals

Laminated sheets with a 2p-sized circle with a line down the middle. Tiny circle to the left. Students fill the large circle with cold water using a pipette. Place one crystal in the tiny circle. Using the pipette, push the crystal to the edge of the droplet—do not agitate the droplet—start the stop clock. Time how long it takes for the purple colour to reach the line. Repeat steps 1–4 with warm water.

— Winning tip for our #TECHOGNITION competition winner, Sharen Cordy, Orchard School

2. Tired of Losing Crocodile Clips?

We’ve made crocodile clip leads by soldering one end of the lead to a crocodile clip. We have barely lost any crocodile clips since!

— Rebecca Quinton, Tring School

3. Keep Chemicals Organised

Colour code the tops of dropper bottles for chemicals so they’re easy to sort out at the end of lessons.

— Leslie Aspey, The Maelor School

4. The Power of Colour Coding

We have laminated lab request sheets (colour coded for different days) so we can write on them then wipe off later—the teachers can also write comments or feedback too.

— Andrea Beal, Highdown School and Sixth Form

5. Nichrome Wire Hack

When filing syringes with sand water and air to show solids, liquids and gases under pressure, use a piece of nichrome wire down the side of the plunger to release all the air, then pull the wire out leaving no air inside.

— Kate Bright, Overton Grange School

6. Remove Permanent Marker Stains

Use a dry wipe marker to remove permanent marker from petri dishes you’ve already marked for pouring agar. Wipe with paper towel. Works a treat!

— Lisa McMillan, West College

7. Chromatography

Use 1% sodium chloride solution to separate food dyes in chromatography.

— Emma Pringle, King Edwards VI High School

8. Get Clearer Results with 1% Salt Solution

Running felt tip chromatography (or any ink chromatography) with 1% salt solution gives much better separation and clearer results.

— Chris Hardie, Kingston Grammar School

9. Say Goodbye to Cross-Contamination

Attach a test tube to the side of reagent bottles with a rubber band and put a pipette in the tube. This is great for preventing cross-contamination of chemicals in lessons.

— Lynn Hill, Malmesbury School

10. Keep Crocodile Clips Tangle-free and Organised

Use wire coat hangers to keep 4mm wires with crocodile clips in order. Label the coat hanger using a sticky label with the length of the wire, and clip the wires to the bottom part of the coat hanger to easily keep different length wires together.

— Andrew Davy, John Whitgift Academy

11. Remove Stubborn Stains

To clean the red stain out of test tubes after positive Benedict’s reagent tests, place them in the dishwasher the right way up, so they collect the water. Then, wash them again the normal way up—this seems to remove 99% of the red staining.

— Karen Fox, King James’ School

12. Cell Division Like a Pro

For excellent cell division when doing the root tip garlic practical, add 8 drops of baby bio to 500ml of water a few days beforehand.

— Sharon Coling, Bilton School

13. Washing Up Liquid Hack

Use a cork borer and some washing up liquid to help insert thermometers into bungs.

— April Layzell, Aylesford School

14. Storage Hack

Buy multi-section craft boxes to store Locktronics equipment. Easy to count back in and minimises breakages.

— Margaret Haran, Congleton High School

15. Another Use for a Compression Spring

Use a compression spring as a drying stand for microscope slides.

— Glynis Powell, Community School

16. Keep a Photo Library

Make a photo library of practical setups. This will help enable you to set up difficult practicals or those which are only done annually—particularly physics.

— Victoria Wootton, Stafford Grammar School

17. And Finally…

Use washing up liquid as a lubricant for bungs and tubing!

— Kate Moore, Worth School

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