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Chemistry

Applied in: Winter 2013

University Offers: Bath, Imperial College, York

It is science’s ability to translate abstract ideas into the tangible that truly fascinates me and is perhaps the main reason I wish to study it at a higher level. I find, through elegantly marrying theories with observable reality - such as Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and the explanation of orbitals, bonding, consequent behaviours of substances and entire systems, both chemical and biological - it reveals a certain beauty, not only at our scale but also at smaller ones. I still marvel at the fact that the complexity of the universe, and our ability to comprehend it is only made possible through the increase of its entropy, which in a sad twist of fate is complicit in its heat death. Some of the questions surrounding the second law of thermodynamics have intrigued me, and I am currently working my way through the book "Why chemical reactions happen" by James Keeler and Peter Wothers with the aim of clarifying why chemical equilibria can exist.

In addition to the A-level syllabus last year, I took on a project to synthesise 2-methylhexan-2-ol from propanone and a Grignard reagent made in situ from 1-bromobutane. As well as sparking an interest in organic synthesis and practicals, it gave me the perfect opportunity to solve a real chemical problem, whilst highlighting the importance of thorough preparation. When tetrahydrofuran was initially used as the reaction solvent instead of dry ether due to safety concerns, the synthesis was unsuccessful. Frustrated and somewhat bewildered by this, I carried out some chemical tests to identify the compounds produced and read further, where I learnt that THF polymerises in the presence of acids. However, I was unfortunately unable to satisfactorily work out why the synthesis did not go according to plan, although I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it really deepened my appreciation of the effects structural differences can have on reaction mechanisms.

It was a natural progression then, to optical isomerism; preparing for the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge in particular introduced me to the fascinating ways in which chirality can affect the properties of some molecules, including thalidomide, limonene and rapamycin. I discovered during this period that I was just as excited by the biological implications of chemical concepts as I was in the chemical implications of physical ones, confirming chemistry was certainly the subject for me. This drove me to seek work experience at Pro Bono Bio and Cantab Biopharmaceuticals, who specialise in lipid nanotechnology and factor VIII stabilisation respectively, where I familiarised myself with a number of chemical and biochemical assay methods such as mass spectrometry and gel electrophoresis. This acquired knowledge really aided me in designing the methodology for my prize-winning independent research project investigating the compositional differences between battery farmed and free-range eggs, and being at the cutting edge of drug development certainly appealed to me as a potential career path. I also recently gave a short lecture on the biochemistry behind chronic pain for our school's Biology Society, of which I am a committee member - a role that involves writing and presenting original material every fortnight. In requiring clear explanations of complex concepts, it has reinforced in me the habit of thorough groundwork, while providing the perfect platform to present individual research to a questioning audience.

These elements of performance and teamwork are not unique to the society; I am a member of the school chamber and chapel choirs and lead the symphony and chamber orchestras. I look forward to the new responsibilities my appointment as Head Girl will present, but will endeavour to still make time for hiking, drama, the odd spot of golf and German. The immediate application of its grammatical logic when speaking is particularly enjoyable and will undoubtedly be of great use in a job in the industry.

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