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…

 

 

3 TOP Revision Tips!

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The exam period is an extremely stressful time! However, from my own experience of taking exams, there are some handy tips which have helped me when revising. In this blog post, I will share some of my favourite ways of studying.

1) Invest in a whiteboard!

Writing on a scrap piece of paper can get messy and you may lose track half way on what you’re doing. Having a whiteboard is super useful. If you need to memorise key definitions – write it on a whiteboard. Practice mechanisms – draw it on the whiteboard. As soon as you feel you have understood the mechanism/topic/unit, wipe and repeat as it will stick with you.

2) Do more than one subject/module a day

It’s actually scientifically proven to revise more than one subject a day (will reference this as soon as I find it :p). Short and frequent is better than long and rare. It is better to revise your three or four subjects each day than to revise one subject for the full day. By doing this, you will have learnt the majority of each subject when it comes to near exam time.

Remember it’s the quality of the work you are doing, and not the length of time you spend doing it that is most important.

3) Do exam papers more than once

Exam boards usually give very similar questions in the exam from the previous years. Past papers are definitely the best form of revision but doing it more than once is even better as you can actually see if you have improved your score. And don’t leave past papers a day before the exam!!!

 

This will be my last post till after exams 🙂 

A Typical Week of a Science Student

 

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I’m currently a second year chemist at Queen Mary, University of London and so this will be a typical week for me during this semester. Most days students will begin lectures at 9/10/11am. A lecture will last around 2 hours.

Monday (ORGANIC CHEMISTRY)
8 am 
Leave the house with a full stomach. My journey takes about 25-30minutes during rush hour.
9 am 
Organic Chemistry lecture starts. This semester we are learning about radical chemistry and different types of oxidation reactions.
11 am Lecture ends and that’s it for a Monday unless there is a workshop after the lecture.

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Organic Workshop

11 am – 2 pm During the break, I may go to the gym (QMotion) or just hang out with my friends. We try to get work done….(emphasis on the try)
2 pm – 3 pm During workshops, you are get given problem sheets related to the content you have learnt overall. This can sometimes be assessed so you would have to hand the worksheet at the end of the workshop. If it is not assessed, there is a multiple choice quiz that opens up online after the workshop which would be assessed.

Tuesday (INORGANIC CHEMISTRY and PROBLEM SOLVING) 
10 am Inorganic Lecture – currently learning about transition metal chemistry which I’m really enjoying.
12 – 1 pm Lecture ends and lunch break!
1 pm – 2 pm Problem Solving Lecture. The main purpose of this module is to reinforce and integrate existing chemical knowledge so it’s a pretty laid back module. One thing I like about this module is that it tests your computational skills as well as your presentation skills and not just your ability to pass an exam.

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Inorganic Chemistry

2 pm – 3 pm Usually a problem solving workshop every other week…
2 pm – 3 pm OR a labs session for problem solving. This is usually a computer based lab session where you are given a task and you use programs such as ChemDraw and are always assessed.

 

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ChemSketch – a program that may used for the computer lab session for problem solving

Wednesday (DAY OFF) 
It’s my day off and I usually spend the day catching up with work and preparing for the next day. I may also be working today at Queen Mary as a student ambassador (the hours vary).

Thursday (LABS) 
1.30 pm – 5.30 pm Laboratory sessions! A new experiment is carried out every week and this can vary from a range of practicals using analytical methods, synthetic procedures, instrumental techniques or computational techniques. The images below show the preparation OF CIS- and TRANS- [Co(en)2Cl2]Cl and [Co(NH3)5N3]Cl2.

Friday (QUANTUM)
11 am – 1 pm 
Lecture starts. Quantum is my least favourite module and I think it’s because it’s very physics based. Even Niels Bohr said:

‘For those who are not shocked when they first come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it.’

2 pm – 3 pm The day usually ends at 1pm unless there is a workshop for either inorganic or quantum chemistry.

And this is the typical week of a chemistry student! My timetable is very similar to first year however, the content is definitely more intense! My week above doesn’t include curricular’s like going out with my friends or to the gym, society events or work, etc. However, you can see the amount of time I have to follow-up on each lecture and for private reading.

It’s fair to say that the bulk of my time at university is taken up with academic studies – especially now being in my second year. But having lots to do really tests your time-management skills and I believe everyone is capable of organising their time, each in their own way. For instance, I made time for cake 🙂 …..

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SWEETS – Mile End

 

First Semester is Over!

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Two weeks ago, I finished my first semester of my second year at University!

I completely underestimated how difficult it would be in comparison to my first year. I had some tough times – not with the workload, but rather understanding content of certain topics like crystal chemistry (inorganic) and Felkin-Anh models (organic).

Quantum and Organic chemistry were definitely the hardest modules this year. Quantum Mechanics courses are known to go into deeper linear algebra like Eigenvalues and Fourier transforms. My 1st year was all about Thermodynamics, Equilibria and Kinetics – Mostly simple concepts and easy maths problems. However, second year Quantum Mechanics does contain things that are quite tedious and difficult to process first time round but it definitely interests me. On the other hand, organic chemistry this year is just confusing me on a whole other level – university chemistry teaches you how to think like an Organic Chemist and apply mechanistic rationale to unseen problems rather than simply do the same mechanism again and again which is great but comes with practice. I’m working really hard to comprehend the information that I’ve learnt this year so I’m hoping I can do well this year in this module.

In addition to this, I have also applied to over 40 internships for both summer 2018 and a year in industry; not just limiting myself to chemistry careers but also in banking and government too. Some internships require you to do online tests and that’s certainly the most difficult bit for me as I don’t always proceed further into the process.

Overall, through my education of Chemistry at Queen Mary, I have progressed in the ability to learn and continue learning even the hardest of concepts; rather than showing me my weaknesses, university has actually showed me what I’m capable of.

I haven’t grasped the fact that my exams are 4-5 months away and I still don’t understand some of the things I have learnt. So, this year will definitely be a challenge, I am not going to let the attitude of ‘I can’t do it’ take me away from what I am passionate about.

Here’s to 2018 🙂

‘Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today’ – Malcolm X

Molecules and Murder: Toxic Relationships…literally!

Molecules and Murder is a new series on the blog, inspired by Professor John Nicholson who studied chemistry at Kingston University. This is the second one of the series and I hope you enjoy. 

We left off with: ‘It’s not always obvious whether somebody has been poisoned’. The rate of poison in the UK is 1 per year, so it is quite a rare case over here however, having said that, it is quite difficult to identify if someone has been poisoned.

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Some examples of poisons include: Arsenic, Cyanide, Thallium, Aconitine. What do these poisons have in common? Nothing. It is quite difficult to figure out from first principles if a particular chemical is a poison. Cyanide is a functional group (carbon and nitrogen) and cyanide turns out to be in all sorts of molecules including a substance called amygdalin which is in apple pips. So, if you have swallowed an apple pip, you’ve had a little dose of cyanide…

Cyanide is also contained in simple salts e.g. KCN which is exceptionally toxic. There was a case in 2000, John Allan who gave his very wealthy girlfriend potassium cyanide (KCN) during a holiday together. Prior to this, he got her to change her will so he could own the house and sports car she had. John Allan is currently in prison for life in the UK. You can read more about this story here.

The fourth one on the list above: Aconitine which is a compound and is quite an unusual poison. It is a metalloid element and often found in nature, obtained from the Monkshood plant which is quite an attractive garden plant.

The Case of Lakhvir Singh

Aconitine was used by a lady called Lakhvir Singh to kill her former lover in 2009. Ms. Singh had a 16 year long term relationship with Lakhvinder (‘Lucky’) Cheema, however he had broken that relationship for a much younger women, Gurpreet. And so, on the 27th January 2009, both of them became violently ill and eventually died after eating a curry prepared by Lakhvir Singh. In Indian cookery, they actually use the monkshood plant to prepare foods however, it is cooked throughly to remove all the poison. She had got the monkshood plant from India to poison the curry but added it in fresh so the poison wasn’t destroyed. The police had found small packets of the plant’s root found in her coat and bag. This was identified Ms. Singh was arrested on 31st January 2009 and sentenced to life imprisoned.

Arsenic, another poison was also found quite commonly as Arsenic Oxide, also known as white arsenic and in Victorian times, it was used as a household chemical (e.g. weed killer, rat killer, etc.). As much as it were useful, at the same time, Arsenic poisoning was extremely common. Arsenic being group 15 is in the Nitrogen group so it means it can replace N in organic compounds. For example:

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Pyrrole

Arsole

Arsole

The Case of Major Armstrong

In 1921, Major Armstrong had used white arsenic to poison is wife. He originally got away with it. He went down to his local pharmacy and claimed he needed it for his garden to kill the weeds…in February. Shortly after his wife died, a new solicitor moved into his town and he was clearly envious and Major Armstrong invited the solicitor to tea; offered him some cake and felt extremely unwell after this due to the white arsenic. But how was he able to get hold of this arsenic so easily? His father-in-law had been selling white arsenic to Major Armstrong and he was a bit suspicious, so he went to the police; they dug up the body of Mrs. Armstrong and found considerable amounts of Arsenic in her. Finally, he was found guilty and hanged in 1922. He was the only solicitor ever executed for murder in the UK.

 

Oxford University Press Chemistry Student Panel

Calling all Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Chemistry students!

*CHEMISTRY STUDENT PANEL*

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Studying for a chemistry degree? Fancy influencing future chemistry books?
Want to earn up to £200 worth of OUP books? …all whilst padding out your CV?
We’re looking for first year students from your chemistry department to:
provide feedback through email surveys
review chapters of forthcoming books
take part in focus groups
…and have their voice heard!

 

To find out more and apply visit >>

http://global.oup.com/ukhe/panel/chemistry_panel