RSC Scholarship Welcome Day 2019 and IYPT Exhibition!

Having applied to the PGCE Chemistry last year, I also took the opportunity to apply to the Royal Society of Chemistry Scholarship.

The Royal Society of Chemistry involves a 28K tax free bursary, free two year RSC Affiliate membership, the opportunity to be mentored by an experienced chemistry teacher, a box of classroom goodies (books, lab coat and goggles, etc.), an online CPD course as well as Professional Development Courses held throughout the year.

The interview day was held in January 2019 and it involved a 1 hour exam of both GCSE and A-level Chemistry, a group interview lasting around 30 minutes, a 5 minute teaching presentation followed by an interview with 2 panellists. There was also a short lunch in-between which allowed me to meet other future chemistry teachers!

The welcome event for successful candidates was held this month and it was brilliant! I had so much fun meeting future teachers and learning about the support given to trainee teachers from the scholarship, like opportunities such as, ‘Teach Chemistry’, which is a free RSC service that supports schools to deliver high quality, engaging chemistry lessons within a supportive science department.

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We also had a chance to visit the International Year of the Periodic Table Exhibition(IYPT). It was originally exhibited at St. Catherine’s College in Cambridge but it is currently held at Burlington House (where Royal Society of Chemistry is based) until 30th August 2019. They have samples of many elements, documents and books from Mendeleev and other items. The star of the exhibit had to be the golden ‘Periodic Spiral’ which I unfortunately don’t have a good picture of. I was also thrilled to finally get my hands on the RSC IYPT lanyard which I’ve been keeping my eyes on for ages, but never seemed to get my hands on! Below are some photos of the exhibition:

If you have any questions about the scholarship, feel free to leave me a message on Instagram or email.

How to prepare for A-level Results Day 2019?

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Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Results day can either be the best day of your life, or a not so great day; however, clearing gives the opportunity for students who either didn’t get the grades they needed, or they changed their mind about the course they originally wanted to do, to reapply for university. Moreover, you can also go into clearing if you changed your mind about going to university in the first place. Here are some top tips on how to prepare for your results day:

  • Do charge your phone for the day

Bring a plug or a cable with you if you are going into school. You may be calling a range of universities on the day and will probably be left on hold for some time.

  • Prepare a list of universities that you may be considering

Prior to results day, universities put up a list of courses that are likely to go into clearing and the grade requirements too. Have a small notepad to write down the numbers of your firm, insurance and. Find an alternative course you are happy with through UCAS clearing.

  • Go in early to get your results

You want to know what grades you have so you can identify which courses you are eligible to apply for when going through clearing.

  • Remember to get released from the offer you are already holding

If you did get the offers but decided not to go ahead with either your firm or insurance, then ring up the place and ask them to remove you so you can go into clearing.

  • Find someone to bring with you to results day

This can be a friend, a family member or even a teacher. If things don’t go to plan when your checking track in the morning, as much as you want to shy away from other people, having that support around you can be more positive than you think.

  • Do you think you did better than what’s on the sheet?

Examiners can always mistakenly mark the papers wrong. You can get a remark and have a grade change!

I hope these tips have helped!

Officially Graduated!

On the 25th of July 2019, I officially graduated from Queen Mary, University of London with a First Class Honours.

I have so many people to thank for supporting me every step of the way and getting me to where I am today.

Completing a degree involves so many emotions. These past three years have been a rollercoaster ride. But the support that I got from my family, friends and university has been indescribable.

This isn’t the end of thenextchemist and I hope to continue this blog and share my teaching journey with you all.

Here are some images to commemorate the day:

How I wrote my dissertation?

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I decided to do a literature based thesis rather than a project based thesis. This means that my project is based on work already published in literature. This is done in my own time and requires no attendance in labs as no practical work is involved.

Since I had decided to go into the teaching profession, my literature project was on the topic of Pedagogy in Organic Chemistry; thus the title of my thesis was ‘Gamification in Undergraduate Organic Chemistry’ which I thoroughly enjoyed writing.

This varies for all universities and degrees, but for my degree, the complete dissertation is split into 4 different areas:

  • Dissertation: based on 45-50 references and should be approximately 9000 words long
  • Seminar Presentation: work presented in the form of a 10 minute presentation and following the presentation, there will be 10 minutes of questions
  • Poster: A2 research poster which summarise aims, background and main content of the project as well as any conclusions
  • Public dissemination piece: This piece is designed to assess the ability to convey the highly technical scientific information within their project to a lay audience. My public dissemination piece was posted on my blog here

Here are some general tips which overall helped me to write my dissertation:

1. Pick a title which isn’t too broad but not too specific either 

Our cohort were given a list of dissertation titles; the topics ranged from Nitrogen Fixation to Chemistry of Memristors to Superamphiphobic Surfaces, etc. I decided to go for a title where there was enough research available for me to write 10,000 words but not too much as you will be addressing too many research questions and including too many concepts, theories, and/or variables.

Picking the right subject is also very important; there are three main areas in chemistry: Organic, Inorganic and Physical. Where does your strength lie? I knew from my first year at university, organic chemistry was the route to go for as it was the field I was always good at and I understood best. Remember, rather than thinking too much about what sounds like a good research title for a thesis, think about what really interests you.

2. Build a strong relationship with your supervisor 

Some people don’t take full advantage of their supervisor and only talk to them when they need to hand in their work. Your supervisor marks your dissertation hence, if you build a relationship where you continuously talk to them about the work that your doing and the research that you are finding, this will make them understand how hard you are working and how seriously you are taking on this project.

3. Lower the plagiarism percentage at each checkpoint 

You will get the opportunity to submit your dissertation at different points throughout the year to a programme called ‘Turnitin’ which essentially checks how much research you have copied. The first time I submitted my thesis to Turnitin, it illustrated that I had copied around 35%. Turnitin does highlight where you have copied so you are able to rephrase and remove sentences to lower your Turnitin score.

 

I am really proud of my dissertation; the time and effort that went into writing it eventually paid off. My ultimate goal was to get a first and I achieved that.

It is an intimidating prospect when you first have that blank, white screen in front of you but once you get stuck in, it will become easier, especially if you’ve picked the right subject for you.

I hope you enjoyed reading this,

till next time…

@thenextchemist

 

 

Guest Blog: Damp in Student Homes. How to Identify and Prevent It

While there are some exceptions, the average student in university does not have unlimited amounts of money to spend on luxurious accommodation. Price is often the deciding factor when choosing a property but you should still make sure there are no signs of damp that a landlord may have chosen to ignore. As a general rule, damp issues become more expensive to resolve over time and can lead to timber decay so it is imperative to know what signs of damp to look out for and how simple changes to your everyday life can prevent damp.

TYPES OF DAMP

There are three types of damp students need to know how to identify: rising damp, penetrating damp and condensation.

Rising Damp ExternalRISING DAMP

Rising Damp occurs when a damp proofing course has failed or not in place, allowing for  moisture to get into the building’s structure. Through capillary action, the moisture travel up from the ground through the walls. As it involves travelling up from the ground, rising damp can only occur on the ground floor of a building. Students can’t do anything to prevent rising damp but it important to know how to identify it before it can get worse. Landlords are responsible for ensuring the property is sufficiently damp proofed.

HOW TO IDENTIFY RISING DAMP

  • Plaster SaltsThe moisture that travels up through the walls will eventually dry out and when it dries, the salts in the water remain on the walls in the form of white fluffy deposits.
  • Tide MarksTide marks are the most frequent sign of rising damp and may be accompanied with damp patches on the walls. This may be present anywhere up to one metre above the skirting board.
  • Decayed skirting/Peeling wallpaper – Rising damp if untreated can lead to timber decay so skirting boards may begin to decay and become cracked, crumble or covered in fungus. Peeling wallpaper is another sign of rising damp and may begin to curl upwards.

PENETRATING DAMP

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Penetrating damp occurs when moisture successfully penetrates from the outside to the inside of a property. Unlike rising damp, penetrating damp can occur on any level of a property. While students aren’t at fault for penetrating damp, they should still regularly inspect the property for leaks and cracks in windows and gutters and report this to the landlord who can have the issue resolved.

SIGNS OF PENETRATING DAMP

  • Black Mould Black mould may also indicate penetrating damp and will grow in size over time if left untreated.
  • Leaking Roofs/Gutters – Any leaks or cracks in roofs or gutters may signify that water is penetrating the property.
  • Damp PatchesDamp patches on walls that do not go away would suggest there is a penetrating damp issue. Damp patches may be more noticeable after periods of rainfall.

CONDENSATION

Condensation is the most common form of damp in a property and as it is caused from everyday living such as cooking and washing, it is impossible to fully prevent it from occurring. Condensation forms when warm damp air condenses and settles on a cold or cooler surfaces. Condensation is most frequent in rooms where excess moisture is created such as kitchens and bathrooms from showering and cooking.

HOW TO SPOT CONDENSATION

  • Black Mould – Black Mould is arguably the most unpleasant sign of condensation. It should not be ignored if there is enough moisture, the mould spores will be allowed  to grow and spread across a surface. Black mould is normally accompanied with a damp and musty smell.
  • Excess Water Collecting on Windows – Condensation forms in most properties but if excess water is consistently collecting on windows, there may suggest there is an air ventilation issue that has to be addressed.
  • Damp walls and peeling plaster – Walls can begin to feel damp and the plaster peeling or damaged if a condensation issue is left untreated.

HOW CAN CONDENSATION BE PREVENTED OR REDUCED

  • Washing clothes – It is recommended to dry clothes outside as much as possible but in the U.K, this will not always be possible for students. If clothes have to dried indoors then it should be done so using a tumble dryer where the ventilation pipe runs to the outside of the building. Not every student house is blessed with a tumble dryer however so the best course of action to dry clothes in a small space with the door closed and the window open.
  • ShoweringWhen showering, it is important to ensure the bathroom remains ventilated. Ventilation should be switched on with the door closed and windows.
  • Cooking – When cooking, lids should be kept on pots to prevent reduce the amount of moisture spreading around the room. It is advised to have extractor fans turned on to a high power with the windows open and doors closed.

 

By Jake Ryan of Peter Cox

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jake Graduate

Jake Ryan lives just outside Glasgow and is a digital marketing executive for damp specialists Peter Cox. Jake has experience in writing on a range of damp related topics such as damp, rot and basement waterpoofing. For more information on damp, visit https://www.petercox.com

Twitter: @petercox1951

What’s next for me??

On the 20th of May 2019, I completed my very last exam of my BSc Chemistry degree.

I don’t think that it’s fully registered with me that I’ve finished my degree, it feels strange but I’m super excited for the new chapter of my life. But what am I going to do next you ask?

If you’ve read some my previous blogposts, second year was the perfect opportunity for me to network with potential employers. I networked with chemical industries, visited large cooperate companies, worked in retail, marketing and education, etc. I was satisfied with the work experience I completed over the years to understand what I really wanted to go into.

*Drumroll please*

TEACHING!

I have enrolled onto do a PGCE Chemistry at UCL IOE.

I’ve chosen this particular career path as I believe learning is beyond paper. Working as a student ambassador at Queen Mary and as a tutor, I want to encourage students and help them to realise their potential. I want to be an inspiration to those children who were told that school was not for them and prove others wrong. I want to not only be an educator but a role model to my students.

If your confused about what you want in life, let this be a sign telling you to keep looking for what excites you by saying yes to new experiences. Everyone’s goal will be different and what might be satisfactory for one person might be unsatisfactory for another. if you are content with what you have achieved then no one else’s opinion should matter.

Reminiscing over the past three years, I’ve been on some incredible adventures and met some amazing people and I am going to cherish my university memories forever.

As my time at Queen Mary draws to an end, it gives me great comfort knowing that I do love this particular career path that I’m going to go ahead with. It has helped me focus my goals and the standards with which I hold myself to. Although plans do change, and this might not be something I want to do forever, I’m glad that my experience and insights gave me a fair idea about what I should do after I graduate and how I should proceed to build a future.

 

Gamification in Organic Chemistry

Karl Kapp, a professor and Director at the Institute for Interactive Technologies at Bloomsburg University defines gamification as ‘using game-based elements and game rational to engage users, encourage action, endorse learning, and answer questions.’

Education is a zone where gamification has developed popularity. The target of gamification in education is to take the information that is usually presented in a lecture and add game based elements to it which allows the material to be a gamified learning opportunity either in the form of a qualified educational game or in the form of an engaging classroom experience. Using game design to improve students’ understanding of the complexity of organic chemistry may be used as an additional way of teaching undergraduate chemists.

Below are just some of the gamified organic chemistry applications. For example, Chairs! is a problem-solving mobile game, released on iOS and Android which tutors students about conformations of alkanes and alkenes in organic chemistry. In addition to this, BACON is an online tutorial designed to help connect organic chemistry to topics in human health and pop culture.

I grew up in the gamer generation and have been exposed to games my whole life. Although educational activities could never compete on the same entertainment level, I do believe gamification can have an impact on all students despite their academic ability.

Despite the downsides of gamification as mentioned in the video and more, even the simplest types of gamification remain a valuable engagement tool.

Whilst gamification may not be solely responsible for major changes in the teaching of organic chemistry, it can provide the tools needed for player interaction and the motivation layer to drive engagement.

A public dissemination piece for my final year project.

(References available upon request)

My experience with trying to get a Year in Industry placement

I was enrolled on the year in industry programme this year, so my second year was loaded up with many blank application forms to different industries for both year in industry placements and summer internships. Even though I did get a few summer jobs unrelated to chemistry, I wasn’t successful with any year in industry placements.

The application process  is different for different companies – it tends to have many stages from online tests to assessment centres and then the main interview.

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The Interview’s I received 

Roche 

The interview was held at Queen Mary. The first part of the interview consisted of questions being asked about my CV – the work experience I did, my hobbies, how it relates to teamwork, communication, dedication, etc. Very typical and quite easy to prepare for. They also asked questions like why Roche, what would you learn from the placement, etc.

The second part of the interview was all chemistry based. So you really have to be very knowledgable with your first you content of organic chemistry. They also asked a lot of lab-based questions like what your favourite experiment was, describe the experiment, what was the aim of it, etc. You get a piece of plain paper in front of you to assist you if you would like to draw any molecular structures, chemical equations, the different reagents and reactants to convert one compound into another, etc.

General Electric

This was a video interview – they asked about 10 questions all considering different aspects. The questions are timed, I believe you have 3 minutes to answer each question and once those 3 minutes are up, you cannot go back to re-record; the video to that particular question has been submitted. ‘If you could visit any country, which country would it be and why?’ was one of the random questions I got asked. But the rest of them were again, very general skill based questions.

Symphony Environmental

This was a small company in Borehamwood. It was my first visit to a real industry and it really gave me an view of how the chemistry knowledge I learnt at university is used in real life. When you are in an undergrad lab, most reactions are designed to work, no matter what you do. Doing organic chemistry in industry, you are confronted with reactions that have not been tested before and the knowledge about how to handle those unknown reactions and the various ways of reaction control is very helpful and something that is not taught in an undergrad lab. So it was a great insight to see this.

I unfortunately wasn’t able to go to the open day where all the candidates were invited so I had to go on my own a week later. The interview was very informal and relaxing and the staff were really friendly.

What I learnt 

Although the opportunity to gain valuable work experience in Synthetic and Medicinal Chemistry is an occasion not to be missed and would make me a candidate who stands out to employers after I graduate, I realised in the end, a year of industry placement was not exactly for me.

Visiting Symphony Environmental industry, I thought I’d love to work in that sort of environment, only to discover it wasn’t a career choice for me after all 😳 . The uni experience of studying Chemistry is very different to the real life working environment.

As much as I love my degree, I don’t really see myself working in the laboratory or industry after I graduate.

So, what do I want to do after I graduate? You’ll see soon in another blog post. 😉

A message for university students…

Education is a power that no one can take away from you. However, I believe your outlook, personality and emotional leadership and intelligence will take you further than any grades will.

Students can go a whole three or four years at university without joining any societies, taking part in any extracurricular activities or applying for any internships and then complain about not being able to get a job after graduating or perhaps, blaming the university for not placing you a pathway to success.

Going to University is the most independent experience you will ever have in your life. You can either spend that time intelligently and graduate as a more enhanced individual, or waste your time for 3 years and continue to beat around the bush.

You are not only paying for the content you learn but you are paying for the whole university experience.

If you are reading this, I highly highly encourage you to make the most of your year(s). Shape your personality, motivate yourself to develop and grow as a person; give yourself the privilege of networking and meeting many talented individuals from within and outside of university.

University helps to develop your independence and only you can start that journey off…

http://www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/students/workexperience/

 

My Second Year Results

I’ve been receiving quite a few emails on how I did in my second year and I can gladly say…I’VE MADE IT TO THIRD YEAR!

Module Code-1Overall, my average for my second year came to 76.9% which was very similar to what I had gotten last year. I guess I can’t really complain with what I have achieved, but could I have done better? OF COURSE!

If second year taught me anything, it has been that I did a lot of procrastination this year and I can honestly say that my grades did suffer a little bit due to my laziness. But this isn’t the end of my degree and I have so much more to offer and learn.

And so, let third year commence…