Student research success

Yesterday our final year MChem students had a day trip to London to the home of UK chemistry, the Royal Society of Chemistry‘s Burlington House base. The event was an early career research conference on environmental chemistry hosted by the RSC Environmental Chemistry Interest Group

MChem students outside Burlington House

An event of this sort welcomes research presented by PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, a smaller friendlier way to present your work and gain valuable experience as well as find out about a wide range of topics in the area. In this case though, we showcased how undergraduate research can be every bit as important and that it is never too early to start your research career.

The day started with a warm welcome and some interesting talks from early career researchers from several different institutions.
Good time was given to the poster session which allowed the presenters time to speak to everyone about their work. The worthy winner of the poster prize certainly had a good talking point with acetate overlays for her mapping project of lead in Glasgow. Interactive posters, a great idea. Our students got to talk to PhD students about their work and what it was like to do a PhD, the real life version from the coal-face.

 

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Lunch provided additional networking opportunities, and a free lunch which students always seem to enjoy! Though for one of our students the nerves were setting in as her talk neared.

Sarah Chandler presented her work from her third year research project on developing autonomous electrochemical sensors to analyse metals in the marine environment. It’s quite unusual for third year students to undertake real research but here at Brighton we feel it’s the best way of developing their practical skills and ability to think about more than what is presented for examination. Starting in the third year also means they are already skilled researchers by the time it comes to their final year projects and their can use this experience when applying for PhD positions.

Sarah’s project was very successful and she worked hard to understand a new area and add her own ideas during the process. Ultimately she managed to develop a sensor that could detect sub-ppb levels of As in real samples, and with a little more development should work well in the field without additional reagents. During the talk she impressed with her knowledge and ability to convey the intricacies of her work with clarity and interest. That she is still to complete her first degree only added to the impact of her presentation.

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The day ended with a great keynote explaining one very varied career path with some interesting tales and some great advice for the students starting out. Not least that often what seems like a disaster at the time can turn out to be great interview fodder when you explain how you dealt with it.
The final act of the day after thanking all the presenters was the oral presentation prize. Much to her surprise Sarah was awarded the prize, testament to her talents and proving that you don’t have to be doing a PhD to undertake great research. I’m sure she’ll go far.

All the students got so much out of the day, from hearing research from people not far from where they are in their careers, to the great career advice from the two keynotes and the networking opportunities provided so well throughout the day. We’d like to thank the RSC Environmental Chemistry Group organising committee for a successful day, we’ll definitely be back.

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Another Fresh View

The second new student to give us some insight into the first few days as a chemistry student here at Brighton is Issy Wright. Getting used to new routines and new ways of learning is part of the experience of going to university. We hope we make the transition as smooth as possible with some of the activities in the first week. Here’s what Issy has to say about it.

Issy Wright-First year Chemistry Student

Issy Wright-First year Chemistry Student

Monday

It was my first day commuting from the Falmer campus, where I am living, to the Moulsecoomb site. I have always lived close enough to my school and college to walk so having to monitor the train and bus schedule and deal with delays was relatively stressful because I did not want to be late on my first day. First was the welcome talk from the head of school, I was quite nervous because there were so many people there and I didn’t know anyone on my course so I was looking around the lecture hall trying to see any students who had the chemistry timetable in front of them.

I then had to try and find the Watts building for the course talk from Dr. Willows, after the talk I felt more excited about starting the course.

In the afternoon I met my personal tutor and the tutor group. Then as a group, we had to go on a scavenger hunt which ended up being more fun than I had originally expected although there were a lot of stairs since we got lost a few times. We really worked together as a group and it was quite a good bonding activity; by the end, I felt as if I knew them really well already.

Tuesday

The day started with a welcome talk from the vice chancellor and the SU. I understood the formality of the vice chancellor’s speech but the talk from the students’ union was more engaging and I learned more about what they do inside and out of the university. I then had to go to a lab coat collection session which I was dreading since I am very short and have never been able to get a well fitting lab coat. However It was fine, I found one that fit but the university didn’t have any more xs sizes so I had to ask for one to be ordered which on reflection was quite entertaining. I then had to complete my in-person enrolment, which was really quick especially as there was virtually no queue for those with surnames in the latter half of the alphabet. The last session of the day was the lab activity where we had to identify simple health and safety issues and it was a nice opportunity to meet the lab technicians.

Wednesday

We started the day with a welfare talk providing more information about the support network at the university and within the school. Then I attended a study skills session which was quite relaxed and had a mini-lecture to help familiarise ourselves with what lectures will be like and to re-enforce the importance of attendance and good note-taking, making me feel more prepared and more comfortable with the change in teaching style. I wasn’t too interested in the fresher’s event that evening so I ended up going to a Jazz club in Brighton centre to watch the Peter Edwards trio with a couple of friends.

Thursday

The societies fair was held at the AMEX stadium. The society leaders were really friendly and I got signed up to a variety of groups, from hockey to film and music. I don’t think I will have any trouble meeting new people.

Friday

I had a later start which was nice for the end of the week, had a CPD talk filled with quite a lot of information and resources related to building our professional profiles and tracking our progress and growth in knowledge over the three years which considering my interest in doing a placement year was a very useful starting point for me and I am sure will help when it comes to putting together a CV. In the RSC talk, I was made more familiar with how much you get from an RSC membership and how much cheaper the student offer is than the regular fee. I got to meet a few second year students who were friendly and put some of our worries to ease.

We’ll catch up with our new first years a little later in the year to see how they are getting on. If you are interested in coming to see what we do here at Brighton then we have an open day coming up on Saturday 21st October. Staff and students will be available to talk to you about the course and facilities here. You can sign up on our website.

 

Medal winners discuss their research

On Tuesday we were fortunate to hear two Royal Society of Chemistry medal winners discuss their award winning research. Professor Christine Cardin (University of Reading) and Dr Susan Quinn (University College Dublin) were awarded the Rita & John Carnforth Award, alongside Professor John Kelly (Trinity College Dublin) for their structural work on DNA – transition metal complexes, proof of the origins of the “light-switch” effect and its implications for mechanisms of DNA damage.

Students and staff gathered to hear the advantages of working in collaborative teams across the chemistry and life-science interface with an example of research that could not be done any other way. This is reflective of the research that is done here at Brighton and many of the final year students are starting their path on this type of collaboration already in their final year projects.

RSC Poster Prize

The annual Royal Society of Chemistry Analytical Research Forum took place yesterday at Burlington House, London. The day brought together Analytical Chemists from many areas showcasing research in spectroscopy, spectrometry, chromatography, electrochemistry and new sound based analysis. The one day event encourages early career researchers to present as well as bringing in senior speakers and highlights the breadth and importance of analytical chemistry in many areas of life.

Brighton PhD student Megi Kamenica presented a poster on her research into supramolecular lithium sensors under supervisors Dr Peter Cragg, Dr Bhavik Patel and Dr Alison Willows.  Hers was one of ten poster presenters invited to discuss their work further in a 3 minute flash presentation. She then went on to win the poster prize for the forum gaining a year’s e-subscription to a RSC journal. Congratulations Megi on your award.
Megi Kamenica at the conference

RSC Prizewinners Symposium

Students and staff were treated to some fascinating chemistry at the RSC Prizewinners Symposium. With two prizewinners giving talks and receiving their medals.medal presentation Dr Nicholas Chilton (Manchester) received the Dalton Young Researchers Award for his major contributions to theory and modelling in molecular magnetism.

medal presentation

Professor Mark Wallace (Oxford) received the Norman Heatley Award for his distinguished work in the area of artifical lipid bilayers, creating a new way of studying membrane proteins.

We thank them both for their interesting insights into their work, all present enjoyed the event. We’d also like to thank the Royal Society of Chemistry for their support in this symposium.

Our own staff also provided talks to complement the two areas with Dr Ian Gass discussing his Radical approach to molecular magnetism and Dr Marcus Dymond discussing Lipid protein interactions and phospholipid homeostasis. Both highlighting some of the great research from our own chemistry laboratories.

Marcus Dymond Ian Gass hosting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Royal Society of Chemistry Prizewinners Symposium

Today we have an exciting afternoon planned with two Royal Society of Chemistry Prizewinners receiving their medals and giving talks about their work. To add to the event we have two of our own staff giving talks about their closely allied research interests. It is sure to be a fascinating afternoon. Online booking is now closed but there are still some spaces left. Please email Dr Ian Gass to book your space

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Meet the Universities

Georgia at our stand

This weekend we had an open day on site and went up to Burlington House, London for the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Meet the Universities event.These events are run each year and provide those thinking about doing chemistry at university the opportunity to chat to many universities under one roof. We usually take one of our undergraduate students along with us as they can give an honest view of what it is like to be a student with us. Georgia has just finished the first year of Pharmaceutical & Chemical Sciences and was able to talk about that initial transition of moving town and the change from A level Study. If you missed us we’ll be at the northern event this coming Saturday (27th June) in Sheffield, it’s not too late to register. There’ll also be useful talks to help you prepare your UCAS application.