The Royal Belfast Academical Institution



I would like to take this opportunity to welcome pupils past, present and future, and parents to the Chemistry Department within R.B.A.I.

Head of Department: Mr S Johnston (Head of Chemistry and Science).

Members of Department: Miss L Gray, Miss M Wells, Miss F Eakin, Mrs A Moorhead

Why Study Chemistry at RBAI?

The aim of the Chemistry Department is to provide a stimulating, enjoyable and motivational environment from which our students can actively engage in their own learning and fulfil their potential as scientists.

Junior School

In Years 8 to 10 students will have 6 periods of science, two for each Science subject.

Year 8 Topics

  • Safety and the Bunsen Burner;
  • What is Chemistry? Materials, Particle Theory/Simple Diffusion and Separation Techniques;
  • The Periodic Table.

Year 9 Topics

  • Introduction to Acids and Alkalis: - use of Red Cabbage extract as an Indicator;
  • Physical and Chemical Changes;
  • Thermal Decomposition;
  • Limestone Chemistry;
  • Heat of Materials;
  • States of Matter.

Year 10 Topics

  • Elements, Compounds and Mixtures;
  • Separation Techniques;
  • Atomic Structure and Basic Formula writing;
  • Combustion/Gases;
  • Mock Control Assessment / Extension work.

GCSE/KS4 - Years 11-12

GCSE Chemistry students will have 4 periods of Chemistry per week. GCSE Chemistry is divided into three units:

  • Unit 1: Structures, Trends, Chemical Reactions, Quantitative Chemistry and Analysis;
  • Unit 2: Further Chemical Reactions, Rates and Equilibrium, Calculations and Organic Chemistry;
  • Unit 3: Practical Skills.

Unit 1:

  • Atomic Structure
  • Bonding
  • Structures
  • Nanoparticles
  • Formula and Balancing Chemical equations
  • The Periodic table
  • Acids, Bases and Salts
  • Preparation of soluble salts
  • Solubility
  • Qualitative chemistry
  • Ion identification
  • Chemical Analysis, Purity and Separation techniques.

Unit 2:

  • Qualitative Chemistry
  • Rates of Reaction
  • Metals and Reactivity Series
  • Redox, rusting and iron
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Electrolysis
  • Gas Chemistry
  • Equilibrium
  • Energy Changes

AS/A2 – KS5

Year 13

Unit AS 1: Basic Concepts in Physical and Inorganic Chemistry

Unit AS 2: Further Physical and Inorganic Chemistry and an Introduction to Organic Chemistry

Unit AS 3: Basic Practical Chemistry

Year 14

Unit A2 1: Further Physical and Organic Chemistry

Unit A2 2: Analytical, Transition Metals, Electrochemistry and Organic Nitrogen Chemistry

Unit A2 3: Further Practical Chemistry


As a Department, the performance of our pupils is our priority; every boy is supported to fulfil his potential in Chemistry. Our pupils excel in comparison to the Northern Ireland average.

RBAI % A*-C 2018

NI % A*-C 2018







Department Facilities

The Chemistry Department has a Science suite comprising a practical area and a theory room enabling students’ private study, three Chemistry Laboratories, two preparation rooms and three apparatus/ chemical stores. The state of the art laboratories have been fully refurbished and equipped with modern apparatus and ‘Trutouch’ interactive boards.

Science Enrichment/Achievements

The Department promotes a range of enrichment activities. In the last year examples include:

  • Winners: Belfast Health and Social Care Trust Healthcare Debate;
  • Winners: Northern Ireland RSC ‘Top of the Bench’ competition for junior scientists;
  • Third place: the RSC Chemistry Analyst Competition in Northern Ireland;
  • Physics: CREST Award in Science awarded for the Engineering Futures Project, in collaboration with Sentinus;
  • Highly Commended: ABP Aberdeen Angus Youth Challenge; the team progresses to the final stage of the competition at Loughry College;
  • Established: Junior Science Club;
  • Physics Trip: Geneva;
  • Pupil James Kavanagh-Cranston secured a place at the European Southern Observatory Astronomy Camp;
  • Angus Harley was awarded the Institute of Physics in Ireland medal for the highest level of achievement in Northern Ireland Advanced Level Physics
  • Angus Harley came first in Northern Ireland in Physics and Chemistry at A-level, achieving full marks in each.

Nuffield SCIENCE Bursary

Student Samuel Millar took part in the Nuffield Science Bursary project which involved looking at common and artic terns. Samuel spent the summer working with Hannah Geary from Glenlola Collegiate and the RSPB assessing whether the rates of chick hatching would promote the existence of a successful colony.

They presented their findings at a celebratory event at Queen's University. Samuel said of his experience, "This project has developed my skills, enabled me to design a methodology to be used by other students and produce my first scientific paper. The identification and monitoring skills I have learnt will also be of use in future employment as I continue to pursue my love of nature (especially butterflies and moths!) whether as part of, or alongside, my career".

Well done to Samuel and Hannah!

What do Chemists Do?

The role of Chemists in society are diverse and exciting! Their jobs range from making medicines that help in the fight against cancer and AIDS; improving the colour and taste of foods; investigating formulations of cosmetics; measuring the alcohol content of drinks and improving the way new materials are used in, for example, roller blades and mountain bikes.

Careers in Chemistry


The commercial sector is one of the largest employers of chemistry graduates after the chemical industry. Employers recognise the key skills of numeracy, problem solving and communication that are an integral part of all chemistry degrees.


Teachers enjoy challenges and rewards that few other jobs can offer. These include variety and constant intellectual stimulation.

Science Journalism

Science journalists have a role to play in acting as intermediaries between science and the public. Journalists work in all areas of the media: television, radio, newspapers or specialist science magazines.

Careers in Law

Patent agents are professionals who have grounding in science and are trained in specialist areas of law.

Further Information and careers advice can be obtained from the Education Department, Royal Society of Chemistry OR

More to explore!

Darmstadt GSI Centre for Heavy Ion Research:

Lawrence Berkeley National Labora-tory:

The Periodic Table in-depth:

28 2021
CDG A Level standardisation and moderation
06 2021
GCSE CDG moderation & standardisation
10 2021
Year 10 Exams
10 2021
Year 11 Study Leave
College Square East, Belfast, Co. Antrim, BT1 6DL
Tel: 028 90 240461
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