SpecUP 2014


SpecUP Spectrophotometer Workshop

27 – 28 March 2014, Esprit, Tunisia

By Dr Patricia Forbes, University of Pretoria, South Africa




Spectroscopy and the applications thereof are included in many undergraduate courses in the natural sciences, including  chemistry, physics, biochemistry and food science. Students often do not get to fully understand the principles of spectrophotometry during practicals, however, as a consequence of limited instrument availability. Modern spectrophotometers are also designed in a manner that limits the handling of components, which unfortunately leads to students operating the instruments as “black boxes” into which samples are placed and which miraculously generate results. A novel spectrophotometer was therefore designed, which would enable students to build their own instrument and then use it to generate analytical data in applied experiments, which include the optimization of the placement of the components of which it is made. The SpecUP generates analytical data of suitable quality for undergraduate practical use. The SpecUP is provided as a kit and the students are encouraged to assemble the instrument; to use it in a range of applied experiments including recording of absorption spectra and analyte concentration determinations; as well as in experiments which develop an understanding of the effect that varying SpecUP component positions have on the experimental results.

Dr Patricia Forbes is a senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria. Her research focuses primarily on atmospheric analyses involving the development of novel sampling and analytical methods for environmental pollutants of relevance to South Africa, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and pesticides. Dr Forbes’ other research interests include analytical chemistry education, specifically in enhancing students’ understanding of spectroscopy. To this end she has developed an educational spectrophotometer, the SpecUP, which has been implemented in a number of university programmes throughout Africa. Dr Forbes has served on the organising and scientific committees of numerous local and international conferences and has published more than ten peer-reviewed journal papers and more than twenty-five conference presentations over the last five years. A number of her postgraduate students have won awards for their presentations at these conferences. Dr Forbes serves on the Executive of the South African Chemical Institute and chairs the Chromatography Division of the Institute. Dr Forbes received the Y2 rating from the NRF.

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Thursday 27 March


Arrival at venue (Esprit), Registration


Welcome (Prof. Mourad Zghal, President of the Optical Society of Tunisia)


Opening of the workshop and welcome (Dr. Particia Forbes, University of Pretoria)


Participants to introduce themselves (all)


Overview of the SpecUP spectrophotometer (Dr Patricia Forbes)


Coffee break


Distribution of SpecUP kits to participants and assembly thereof





Development of experiment and Prac Manual material regarding the relationship between absorbance and concentration, including effects of component adjustment and basic analytical concepts (all)



Coffee break


Continue with experimental development (all)


Discussion of progress (all)


End of Day 1

Friday 28 March


Arrival at venue


Development of experiment and Prac Manual material relating to recording of spectra using the SpecUP, including effects of component adjustment and basic analytical concepts (all)


Coffee break


Continue with experimental development including different applications/analytical solutions (all)





Finalisation of experiments (all)


Discussion regarding implementation of the SpecUP (all) 


Coffee break


Overview of SpecUP student questionnaires (Dr Patricia Forbes) 


Workshop evaluation (all)


15h20 to 15h30

Vote of thanks and closing comments (Prof. Zohra Ben Lakhdar)

Organizing committee:

Prof. Mourad Zghal (President of the Optical Society of Tunisia)

Prof. Zohra Ben Lakhdar (Founder and past President of the Optical Society of Tunisia)

Dr. Rim Cherif

Abderahmen Trichili

Amira Baili

Abir Hraghi



 sto alc    pretoria  esprit