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University of York

Exploring Everyday Chemistry

University of York via FutureLearn


This free online course explores a range of chemistry-based topics relating to our everyday lives, with an emphasis on the important role of organic chemistry – the study of carbon-containing organic compounds. Activities include experimenting ‘in the kitchen’ with hands-on projects ranging from extracting a plant fragrance, to testing the activity of spices against microbes. The course will be particularly useful for sixth formers who are interested in developing independent learning skills to help the transition to university.

Use real-life examples to study organic compounds

During each week of the course, we will use real-life examples to show you how an understanding of the structure and shape of organic compounds can be used to explain their reactivity and properties.

Week 1: The chemical attraction of perfumes and pheromones

We’ll identify a range of natural and synthetic attractants; understand current theories that help to explain how chemical structure is related to smell; and make a molecular model.

Week 2: The race for new antibiotics

We’ll describe the mode of action of antibiotics; understand bacterial resistance; identify promising new areas of research to design smarter drugs; and explore pattern recognition in structure-activity relationships.

Week 3: The chemistry of brewing

We’ll describe the process of brewing; identify key flavouring compounds in beer, tea and coffee; understand the role of modern analytical methods; and analyse spectroscopic data.

Week 4: The chemistry of sport

We’ll explore innovations that are changing the game; identify modern materials that improve performance and aid protection; and model the structures of polymers.

Learn with organic chemistry experts from the University of York

The University of York is a centre of excellence in chemical education, being the home of Salters' Advanced Chemistry (Science Education Department), the A-level magazine Chemistry Review, and it has a notable history and track record in outreach, principally by our CIEC group, including The Essential Chemical Industry website.

The course is designed for anyone with an interest in chemistry (a GCSE level of science is recommended), but will be particularly useful for sixth formers to aid the transition to study science at university.

You can use the course to support your UCAS personal statement and prepare for university study by broadening your chemistry knowledge and developing your independent learning skills.


  • Chemical attraction
    • Welcome and overview
    • Understanding chemical structures, naming and fragrance composition
    • Mechanisms and shape theory
    • Fragrant organic compounds from roses and oranges
    • Organic compounds in pheromones
    • End of week test and concluding thoughts
  • The race for new antibiotics
    • Welcome and overview: an introduction to antibiotics
    • Understanding penicillin
    • Broadening the horizons of antibiotics
    • An overview of other antibiotics
    • Understanding the economics, morality and new directions of antibiotics
    • End of week test and concluding thoughts
  • Understanding brewing
    • Welcome and overview
    • The chemistry of flavour
    • The chemistry of tea
    • Brewing beer
    • Understanding the role of antioxidants
    • The chemistry of coffee
    • End of week test and concluding thoughts
  • Chemistry in sport
    • Welcome and overview: an introduction to chemistry in sport
    • Understanding polymers
    • The role of polymers in sport
    • Sports medicine and nutrition
    • End of week test and concluding thoughts

Taught by

Andy Parsons


4.8 rating, based on 11 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at FutureLearn based on 51 ratings

Start your review of Exploring Everyday Chemistry

  • Anonymous
    This course includes something for everyone. It is designed to show the importance of organic chemistry and includes background info for the novice. Fab reviews and really popular. Well worth a go - enjoyable and fun!
  • Anonymous
    An award-winning course that explores the importance of chemistry in our everyday lives. An eye-opening adventure into the worlds of perfumes, antibiotics, brewing and sport. Something for everyone!
  • Anonymous
    Chemistry surrounds us and impacts on all we do in our everyday lives. This free online course enthusiastically explains the hows and whys.
  • Anonymous
    A wonderful opportunity to learn about the importance of organic chemistry in our everyday lives! Something for everyone.
  • Anonymous
    A fascinating insight into the chemistry of perfumes, antibiotics, brewing and sport. Builds on pre-university chemistry courses and includes a series of fun kitchen experiments (with the opportunity to share and discuss findings), from building molecular models to analysing the antimicrobial properties of household spices. A must-see course for the chemistry enthusiast who wants to understand more about the everyday applications of organic chemistry.
  • Anonymous
    For those wanting to know more about chemistry, particularly organic chemistry, in the context of perfumes, antibiotics, brewing and sport. If you are looking for a course to help prepare you for a chemistry-related university degree this one is well worth doing. Lots of variety, including various kitchen experiments, giving an insight into university teaching and research.
  • Anonymous
    Four weeks of fascinating chemistry with something for everyone. A clear and engaging course that explains the underlying organic chemistry principles of perfumes, antibiotics, brewing, and materials and medicines in sport. Give it a go, you will not be disappointed.
  • Anonymous
    A fascinating tour of everyday organic chemistry, pitched at different levels, with something for everyone. The kitchen experiments were a distinctive feature of the course and these were both interesting and fun.
  • Anonymous
    Looking for an interesting, fun and interactive way to brush up your organic chemistry knowledge then this is the course for you!
  • Anonymous
    This course piqued my interest in organic chemistry through other resources, so in that sense it was worthwhile to me. I started with very little formal chemistry knowledge and found myself quickly submerged in a quagmire of material that used impl…
  • Anonymous
    Everything we eat, drink, wear and play with is made up of chemicals. Find out why something ‘natural’ is not necessarily better for you than something that is ‘artificial or synthetic’.

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