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Chemical Physics

Applied in: Winter 2014

University Offers: Bristol, Edinburgh

However varied the scientific subject matter I study, links to other areas often appear. I find it intriguing how concepts which initially seem unrelated can be described by the same mathematical models, such as reaction rates and capacitor discharge being expressed by the same exponential relationship. I am curious to explore the intersection of the scientific disciplines and the growth of the innovative fields that rely on them at university.

I have found the depth of my chemistry course stimulating, in particular the sections on atomic structure where molecular orbital theory overlaps with quantum physics. It has been through further reading and taking part in the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge - for which I was awarded a gold certificate - that I have built up my problem solving skills further. For example, 'Organic Reaction Mechanisms: a step-by-step approach' by M. Edenborough clarified the importance of considering a culmination of factors such as steric hindrance and lone pair donation when working out mechanisms.

In order to enrich my knowledge of the quantum theory that I studied in AS Physics I read "Alice in Quantumland' by R Gilmore. Of particular interest was the bizarre Copenhagen interpretation that every property of matter is described by a probability, and that matter itself exists merely as a wave function. Teaching myself further maths AS independently has complemented my scientific studies and allowed me to access some of the more complex ideas. The prospect of studying the science that provides a basis for research into world-changing fields excites me, particularly in the area of nuclear fusion. To this end, I attended a Headstart materials science course at Oxford University. Visiting the JET tokamak was the highlight and inspired me to write an extended essay on fusion, looking more closely at conditions in stars and binding energy curves. Other lectures on the course, about biological stents and classical materials, served to reinforce my interest in pursuing a multi- faceted approach to science.

Extra-curricularly, I led the school team at the UK Space Design Competition. The objective was to design a free-standing space settlement that could capture asteroids. For the competition, I forged links with Reaction Engines, a company developing technology for renewable space planes. We visited their laboratories and attended lectures by the British Interplanetary Society, which informed our research into transport to the space settlement. The competition itself emphasised the interdependence of the sciences, as we had to invent an environment suitable for human habitation which was also limited by physical principles. The chance to present our findings at an international science convention showed me the value of scientific collaboration, while later work experience at Imperial College's virology department gave me a sense of how meticulous research at the scientific front line can lead to breakthroughs.

Outside of school, I have been attending the RAF cadets for four years and have been promoted to Sergeant. Cadets has allowed me not only to nurture an interest in, and to teach aviation engineering, but also to gain new skills such as military discipline and leadership. Together with my role as a school peer supporter and previously as form captain, these positions of responsibility have helped me develop my teamwork, time management and perseverance. I have been struck by the extent to which our scientific knowledge base grows day by day through the publication of research. The fields that I already love investigating are constantly expanding, and I am looking forward to engaging myself in scientific discoveries as they happen.

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