3 TOP Revision Tips!


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



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.

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.


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.

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.


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.



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 🙂 …..


SWEETS – Mile End


First Semester is Over!


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 the some 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.


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:





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!



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 >>


My First Year Results???

On the 30th of June, I got my results. While I was very tempted to publish a post a few hours after having checked my results, in the end I decided to wait.  My average for my first year at university came out to be: 76.7% which is a first.

Overall, I studied 8 modules and each module is worth 15 credits, so over the whole year, you would have 120 credits, per year and those 8 modules consisted of a variety of topics. Disappointed that I didn’t get a 1st in every module, however, I am over the moon to have achieved this grade. My first year did count towards my final degree, although only 10%.


I am definitely surprised by what I achieved in some of the modules. Especially ‘Spectroscopy’ as it took me a very long time to process the information in my head and make sense of it. I did prefer Inorganic chemistry compared to Organic chemistry simply because it was interesting and it had a lot of maths and calculations which is one of my strengths.

The trickiest part about being a student, I find, is processing the results you have got and informing your plans to achieve your future goals. Although studying for your exams is very important and a necessity to get a high grade, understanding the fact that scoring high in the exams is not the only thing that determines your future goals. So wherever you are in your studies, keep going 🙂


4 tips for your First Year at Queen Mary!


Make sure you ticked ‘Yes, I want to share all my details with the University’ when you had applied to Student Finance. You will be automatically assessed for this bursary using the information you provide to Student Finance England. If you haven’t done this, but you are eligible for the bursary, contact the student enquiry centre later on in the year.

You can also apply for a scholarship. You will be sent an email with the application form during your studies. Bear in mind, scholarships are quite competitive.

Follow @QMSU and @QMSU_Events on Twitter for competitions and events 

Our Student Union hold so many fun and FREE events throughout the year, so it’s not to be missed! They also tweet regular competitions to win vouchers, QM merchandise, tickets, etc. Turn on your notifications!

Don’t forget to register with a Doctor!

To ensure you have access to health care whilst you are studying – you must register with the Student Health Service (SHS) within the first week. More information about the SHS and how you can register there is available at: www.studenthealth.qmul.ac.uk.

Jobs at Queen Mary!! 

There are so many jobs at Queen Mary for you to apply and many of the jobs follow the London living wage as well as being flexible around your studies. Follow @QMcareers on twitter for load’s more opportunities. Check your emails regularly too for internships, industry placements, placements abroad, volunteering opportunities, etc.

You can also book an appointment at the career’s centre to discuss your options, get feedback on your CV/Application or to arrange a practice interview.

Molecules and Murder: What is Poison?

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


Definition of poison: a substance which when ingested, inhaled or injected, causes death or injury, other by mechanical means.

The definition includes being ‘injected’ as one of the ways of being poisoned. The most prolific serial killer in the UK, a doctor called Harold Shipman injected his patients with poison. They actually don’t know how many people he killed, but there was an estimate of 250. How he got away with it is quite worrying because the rate of death from his single handed practice was eight times compared to the one down the road. It went on for years before he was actually arrested.

Other ways you can get poisoned is just through the skin. There are substances such as Hydrogen Cyanide that can just cross the skin. Although not a poison but can be considered as one: nicotine patches can be absorbed through the skin. Drug companies are trying to deliver a substances across the skin instead of using injections or tablets.

Now, the definition doesn’t include a specific dose to kill you. You can be given substances that are not particularly toxic, but if the dose gets high enough, it will kill you. Everything has a dose above which you shouldn’t go; if I were to drink huge amounts of water, it would feel quite uncomfortable and you can die. Moreover, poisoning by salt can be a criminal activity too. The circumstances of criminal trials to do with salt always involves a young child or baby; babies or toddlers are not particularly developed when they are born, so too much salt can kill them.

Criminal poisoning is very rare in the UK. It is approximately 1 per year. However, killing someone with poison is not always obvious unlike a knife or gun crime…


Nature’s Building Blocks by John Emsley

WhatsApp Image 2017-06-01 at 15.53.31The detailed coverage of all the known chemical elements is fascinating. Every element is split into sections to describe it’s purpose in each department: Element of life, Food element, Dangerous element, medical element, historical element, element of war, economic element, environmental element, chemical element and element of surprises – this makes it very useful as a reference book.

The book goes in alphabetical order rather than order of the periodic table which is more convenient and practical when you want to explore a particular element. Elements with an atomic number over 100 are put together in their own chapter.

The author mentions that some elements cover several pages of text while others struggle to fill one page, and he believes it is a reflection of their relative importance. The top five main elements in Nature’s Building Blocks are Hydrogen, Mercury, Lead, Phosphorous and Silicon. Since it was a new edition, what the author could have done differently is possibly have added illustrations or photos. Rather than being a dry, academic book, this non-fiction does have some humour in it which is one of the things that appeal to me.

At the end of the book, there is a short chapter on the history of the periodic table with illustrations of John Dalton’s table of elements, Mendeleyev’s first periodic table, a circular periodic table, etc.

I would recommend this book to anyone curious in an in depth review of each element in the periodic table, it’s history, property and uses – I believe it’s extremely useful for students studying chemistry and teachers too.

Overall, this book is definitely for someone who likes to know more than just an element’s chemical properties; it is an easy read, whether you are knowledgeable on Chemistry or not.

Extract: Silver – The Food Element (page 492)

Silver is present in many of the things that we eat. For example flour contains about 0.3ppm and bran about three times this level. Milk had between 25 and 50ppb, beef, pork and mutton around 40ppb and fish can have as much as 10ppm. The daily intake of silver is between 20 and 80 micrograms, but such tiny amount pose no thread to health. The hydrochloric acid in the stomach protects the body by precipitating the silver as insoluble silver chloride so that as much as 90% of ingested silver passes through the gut unabsorbed but is absorbed in the liver and skin. In Europe, silver as a food additive has the code E174, signifying it is safe to use. Silver-coated objects can be eaten, and they often adorn wedding cakes. Small sugar balls covered in silver may be used to decorate birthday cakes and other confections. In India, ultra-thin silver foil is called vark and put on pastries to give them a shiny appearance. There are several anecdotes which indicate that  silver has long been known to protect drinking water against disease and may explain why silver coins were to be found at the bottom of many wells. It was said that the Persian King, Cyrus the Great, travelled with his own supply of water in silver vessels. In the USA, in the early 1900s, people put silver dollar coins in milk to retard spoilage and retain freshness.

Published: New Edition 2011

Pages: Approximately 700