Chemistry, to me, is not merely a subject; it is this whole world of interactions at the subatomic level that ultimately leads us on the path to truth. It is intellectual curiosity that leads to countless questions being asked that, in turn, fuel discoveries in chemistry. I find learning about discoveries such as Liquid crystal displays and penicillin insightful as they have shaped our modern world.
My interest in organic chemistry, especially optical isomerism, grew after reading “The Disappearing Spoon” by Sam Kean. Learning about how different mechanisms and shapes of molecules give rise to enantiomers has allowed me to apply the theory to topics such as the thalidomide crisis. From “The Disappearing Spoon”, I was fascinated by how the use of chiral catalysts such as rhodium led to the use of L-dopa which was beneficial in reducing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It was interesting to compare the thalidomide crisis with the treatment of Parkinson’s disease in terms of how stereochemistry and the methodology behind making the different drugs led to two drastic outcomes.
My work experience at Cordeve Chemist enabled me to be exposed to drugs such as ibuprofen and omeprazole when stocking deliveries. These drugs were mentioned in the article “Chiral Drugs” by Lien Ai Nguyen and this led me to ask the chemist about stereochemistry. I was taught about how racemic drugs are examined and split into categories to identify whether they are safe to use. I learned to form professional relationships along with the ability to work efficiently in a professional chemistry-related environment. Shadowing the pharmacists when they were compounding prescriptions showed me how important it is to use accurate masses of each component and also taught me about appropriate compounding techniques. I also improved my communication skills when giving the patients adequate instructions for administering their drugs. Using appropriate techniques in the synthesis of compounds was something I used when making Aspirin. By following the concise instructions of the practical and using the theory behind the steps and equipment used such as the Buchner funnel, it was rewarding when I obtained the product successfully without any problems. I also put my analytical skills into practice when testing the purity of the aspirin I produced by comparing its melting point with the Databook value.
A lecture about noble gases that I attended consolidated the importance of continuous experimentation. William Ramsay’s discontent with unanswered questions resulted in him building a balance to weigh gases with no electronics at all. His constant refinement of methods and his application of chemical knowledge led to the discovery of noble gases. This lecture allowed me to realize the vital importance of practicals and made me more excited to expand on my practical skills at University. I came to enjoy the diversity of chemistry, especially after recently attending a lecture about the “Periodic Kingdom” run by the Society of Chemical Industry. In this lecture, I learned about the importance of mathematics in quantum chemistry. For example, the solution of Schrödinger’s equation uses the isotropic potential that typifies the H atom. By applying Schrödinger’s model to the periodic table I came to learn that when an electron is added to the H atom, the isotropic potential breaks and leads to energy levels which in turn gives us the elements of the periodic table.
Outside of my studies, I enjoy playing netball and creating paintings which improved my time management skills. My role as a team director at NCS, in addition to my current part-time job at a GCSE tutoring center, allowed me to exercise substantial initiative. My flexibility in thinking, as well as my problem-solving skills, can be illustrated through my Gold awards in the UKMT which can be helpful in the interpretation of data and in solving problems creatively in chemistry contexts.
Exploring chemistry has given me the foundation of knowledge I need to understand that it is a truly extensive field and the idea of exploring the myriad of conundrums excites me. I believe that by continuing to pursue chemistry a whole world of intellectually stimulating opportunities would open up to me.