For the Love of Chemistry
- Length: 543 words (1.6 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
My Love of Chemistry
I am applying to the university to study chemistry because this is the subject that I enjoy most. As with science in general, I find it interesting, often fascinating, and I feel that I could gain much from studying it at university.
Last year I spent a fortnight on work experience, and enjoyed both of my two placements. At Birmingham University School of Chemistry, I was able to use some techniques that were new to me at the time - such as GCMS, HPLC, and I.R. spectroscopy. I found it particularly enjoyable when I later learnt about the theory behind these at school. At Russell's Hall Hospital, working in the pathology labs, I saw some medical applications of these and various other techniques, and was able to learn a little more about the science behind them.
I have just finished taking part in a six-week research project at Birmingham University with a bursary from the Nuffield Foundation. The project was organic chemistry based, and involved working towards the synthesis of a catenane, with an intermediary being the synthesis of a pseudorotaxane. I also hope to gain a Crest 'gold' award for this work.
In and out of school, much of my free time is devoted to playing sport or rehearsing and performing in a number of orchestras and smaller groups.
I play the oboe, and earlier this year I achieved a distinction at grade VIII. I have been very lucky to play in my school Symphony Orchestra, which has been an enjoyable experience, as well as Concert band. I also play in a wind quintet at school and sing in one of the choirs. Out of school, I play oboe in Birmingham Schools Baroque Orchestra and contra-bass recorder in B.S. Recorder Sinfonia. Earlier this year I performed in the National Festival of Music for Youth, in Symphony Hall, with the Sinfonia, and I have just been asked to play solo recorder in a concerto with B.S.B.O. later this year. I intend to continue playing music at university.
In season, I am the goalkeeper for my school Hockey 1ST XI, and sometimes for my local hockey club. I enjoy this - although to prioritize work I have had to cut down on these activities recently. I also enjoy cycling and canoeing - I often ride to school in summer.
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I am one of a number of licensed radio amateurs in school, and I am the secretary of my school Amateur Radio & Electronics Society. We are lucky as we have some good equipment provided by the school, including a number of aerials on the roof! When conditions are good, I have been able to speak to other amateurs as far away as America and Australia. Most years we take part in a 24-hour competition run annually by the Radio Society of Great Britain.
At university, I hope to further my understanding of chemistry and develop as a scientist. I enjoy a challenge and the reward that comes from solving a problem, or understanding a new concept, and I believe this is why I find science so interesting. I also enjoy an active life, and I intend to contribute to university life through music and sport.
More than a few of the posts I’ve made in the recent past are kind of depressing. Things like scientific misconduct, atrocious teaching, over-hyping mundane results, and slimy departmental politics are an unfortunate part of the chemical landscape and merit commentary. On the other hand, I don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that I think the world of chemistry is bankrupt of joy. To the contrary, there are lots of things that keep me excited about our field. Here are just a few of them:
1. Chemistry works. There is an incredible amount of reliable, fundamental work in our field. The thrill of a reaction that you’ve only seen on paper actually working in the lab never gets old.
2. Chemistry has substantially improved life. Chemicals are everywhere doing all sorts of useful stuff. From materials to detergents to lubricants to drugs, chemical technology has solved an astounding number of problems for humanity.
3. Chemistry is not too complicated. There is so much craziness in biology—so many variables, so many things to go wrong—that a lot of the time you end up having to play a numbers game to understand if what you’re doing has any significance. Chemical experiments, on the other hand, are much easier to characterize and follow. There is something satisfying about being able to keep tabs on what’s going on.
4. Chemistry has got to be the basis for figuring out a number of important unsolved problems. The greatest historical question of all time is how life originated on Earth four billion years ago. That is all but certainly a chemical problem. The greatest technological problem of our time is finding an environmentally-friendly solution to our energy needs. This is all but certainly a chemical problem. Don’t let anyone tell you that all the interesting chemistry has been done already.
5. The vast majority of chemists behave ethically. Fortunately, the fraction of posts on this blog about scientific misconduct dwarfs the fraction of crooked chemists in our field.
6. There are good teachers among us. I’ve lamented how many professors and grad students don’t take their teaching responsibilities seriously, but on the flip side, there are a number of fantastic teachers in our field. This goes beyond basic instruction in the classroom to include those who take time on the research side to develop their students into good scientists.
7. The chemical world is largely a meritocracy. Yes, there are people at the top who pull strings with editors to get their “bad” science into good journals, but if you do “good” science, it will get published and catch on. At the end of the day, there is no substitute for good ideas, reproducible results, and talent.
8 through 10 (and beyond). The Simple Pleasures. See here.
I’m sure I’m missing some good reasons chemistry rocks, but that’s not the point. The point is that despite the occasional sour taste of some of the posts here, the above list trumps everything. I’ll keep a link to this post on my desktop for the next time I lose the will to live.
This entry was posted by Paul Bracher on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007 at 5:05 AM and is filed under ChemBark 1.x, Scientific Culture, Scientific Misconduct. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.