We’re recruiting for next year’s PASS leaders. It’s a great confidence booster and good way to meet the new first years, looks great on your CV and makes sure you remember all of that stuff you did in the first year. Email Dr Willows by end of May to register your interest.
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
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.
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.
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.
For this post we have a guest piece by one of our new first year students Alexander Ludlow. Alex has just started on the BSc(hons) Chemistry course here at Brighton and has kindly recorded his experience of the Welcome Week here which culiminated in a social event in collaboration with the Royal Society of Chemistry, followed by ChemSoc’s first social event of the year (without the staff present!).
My first day studying chemistry at Brighton had a light start, we were welcomed by the Head of School who put into context what studying in Brighton meant and how we can get the most of it. The day mainly consisted of activities to familiarize yourself with the Campus and online student learning environment. To finish the day off we competed against other tutor groups for a scavenger hunt, which I was sceptical about, but ended being a very enjoyable task, where I not only got to know people in my tutor group, but also got to know the buildings where I’d be taught.
Today was some administration before we can get into the Chemistry laboratories. Later in the day we had a fun lab activity, where there was a simulation of typical hazards and bad practise in the lab. We had to explain to the technician the hazards we had found and how we would deal with them.
My Wednesdays are not very busy because the University likes to keep this day open for you to do sports, should you choose to. We had our first Course related talk today, detailing how we should study, which was helpful. Our lecturer, the Inorganic chemist named Ian Gass, whom is a fan of Iron, and sounds like Frankie Boyle, created a light and fun environment, whilst still speaking in a very detailed manner allowing me to follow what he was saying easily. For an example on note making and the importance of attendance he taught us about Crystal field theory, I found it very difficult and almost hypocritical the idea that a ligand forming a dative covalent bond with a central metal ion, can be considered to have an ionic interaction with the central metal ion. I said to one of my peers “I’ve just realised chemistry isn’t black and white” they replied “have you only just realised?”. Chemistry is so beautiful and complex so it needs to be explained via a model that can represent the main features in a simplistic way, because to be able to understand chemistry you need a broad understanding of how many things work. It’s only now I realise I was being taught the ‘lite’ version of chemistry in previous education and the simplified version. I am excited for the year ahead but also a tad scared about the content, and the only thing I can do is be proactive and work as hard as I can and seek support when I need it.
Thursday was a late start, not much chemistry involved, because today was freshers fair, 6000 students piled into AMEX stadium to sign up for the 116 societies Brighton university had to offer. A good day and was a surprising sight.
Friday was a fun day. Whilst the 5 sets of stairs in the Watts building weren’t fun, the talk on keeping your online image positive and working on describing your weaknesses and strengths was helpful. Next, we had a small talk from the Royal Society of Chemistry which was interesting, and found out the results to Monday’s scavenger hunt. My team only got a silver, but I’ll take that. Monday was also ChemSoc’s first social. I really enjoyed meeting 3rd years and hearing their experiences and tips for first year, chemistry at UoB seems to be a tight knit group that all seem to know and support each other.
Thanks Alex for giving us an insight into your first week. We’ll catch up with the new students later in the year.
Our next Open Day is Saturday 21st October. You can visit the main University of Brighton website to sign up.
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.
Here is one of our student ambassdors to tell you what it’s like to be a chemistry student at Brighton.
“There is a really inclusive feel to Chemistry at Brighton, which made me feel instantly welcomed. All the staff offer guidance whether that’s in academics or general advice. There are plenty oppurtunities from developing practical skills in high-spec laboratories to completing a placement in industry. The overall experience has given me a great foundation for my future.”
Charlotte Sarmouk (Final Year)
Today our final year students get their results after all of their hard work. The Chemistry division staff would like to congratulate all of our students and wish them the very best for the future. We’ll see you at graduation!
Today we have a guest writer for our blog, BSc(hons) Chemistry student Sophie Wain. Sophie has been the student year rep for two years running now and is heavily involved with ChemSoc, our chemistry student social group, having become vice-president this year. She is just about to embark on a year placement with BMW but has given us an insight into her role as a student rep before she goes.
I opted for the post of Course Representative in first year, feeling that there were changes I could make to my environment at the university and wanting to have an active role in doing so. Through working as a conduit between the staff and students, I brought about changes particularly in increasing interpersonal activities between the students – changes that could be seen the following year in the new freshman cohort, in which there was a much friendlier and close-knit relationship between the students.
Taking this role of responsibility gave me a taste for making a difference and through it I became much more confident in my leadership abilities. I took on another leadership role when the Chemistry Society was rekindled midway through my first year, and by second year I held the position of Vice President. I continued as Course Representative into second year and intend to resume my role again in third year after I have completed my placement year as an analytical chemist with luxury car manufacturer BMW, a position I believe that my active role in university helped me gain the skills to achieve.
We hope she enjoys her placement year and look forward to hearing more about it once she’s settled in.
Royal Society of Chemistry Undergraduate Research Bursary
One of our MChem students has successfully gained a bursary to undertake some research at the university with Dr Irina Savina and Professor Sergey Mikhalovsky during the summer. Lorraine will spend 7 weeks within the research laboratories at the University of Brighton developing novel macroporous gels based on lignin. Lignin is currently attracting attention for its low cost and eco-friendly properties and is produced as a by-product of the wood and paper industry. Lorraine will be synthesising and characterising polymers made from lignin taking advantage of the adsorption ability to remove metals from water.
Salter’s Graduate prize shortlist
Congratulations also go to one of our final year chemists, Lois, who was nominated by us to compete for the Salter’s graduate prize for chemistry and chemical engineering. Whilst not quite gaining the final prize we are very pleased that she was shortlisted for interview. The prizes are awarded based on assessment of the candidate to occupy leading positions in public life and we are certain that Lois will do will in her career once she graduates.
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.