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.

 

What’s it like to be a new student at Brighton?

Welcome week orientation hunt group images

Some of our new students finding their way around campus

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!).

 

Monday

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.

Tuesday

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.

Wednesday

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

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

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.

Funniest photo competition pictures

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.

Final year research project submission day

Jaspreet (BSc(hons) Pharmaceutical & Chemical Sciences) and Lorraine (BSc(hons) Chemistry) submitting their dissertations for binding

Charis and Emily (both BSc(hons) Chemistry) submitting their projects to our friendly school office staff member Matt

This morning our final year BSc and third year MChem students are submitting their research project dissertations. They have been working hard in the lab all year doing some fantastic innovative and challenging research.  The final challenge is a defence of their work by oral viva voce exam, but we’ll give them a couple of weeks break before that!

In the meantime they will enjoy ChemSoc’s night out in celebration of submitting their work (and the second year’s analytical validation report) and continue to work hard on their other modules. The end is in sight now though, well done to all of you!

Open Day

img_0191We’re here and ready to welcome potential applicants and show them what we do here at chemistry@brighton.

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)

undergraduate research

One of the great things about the chemistry courses at Brighton is the opportunity to do some real research in the third and fourth years. Students get a full day a week plus an intensive full week in the lab during the year allowing them to really get to grips with some novel chemistry. Quite frequently those students will help obtain data which is written into a research article. This year one of our final year students was given an idea and some guidance from her supervisor and turned that into a successful project of her ideas. This has now been accepted and will soon be published as a paper in Analytical Biochemistry.

So today we’ve handed over the rest of the blog to Jelena to tell us a little about her project.

Jelena Pisaruka

My final year project module was the most interesting piece of work that I had to do during my degree. I felt very independent and was able to share my own ideas with my supervisor – Dr. Dymond, but at the same time had regular meetings, helpful advice and support from him during the whole year. From the great variety of themes available for the final year project I have chosen one from physical chemistry – Miniaturized chemistry: 3D printed temperature controlled cuvette for UV/vis chemical processes. It was very interesting for me because 3D printing technique is relatively new and I never had a chance to use a 3D printer in my life before. Although 3D printers are used in different sectors already, it is new in chemistry and at the beginning I was worried that my project is more related to design or engineering and had not enough chemistry in it. But everything worked out and a paper was written based on my final year project and will be published shortly. 

The aim of my project was to design, print and test a cuvette with a temperature control system in aim for studying temperature dependent reactions. To achieve my goal I had to break it into smaller steps. The first part was to design the cuvette using Autodesk 123D software. It is design software that I have never used before so it took some time to learn how to do it. After the final design was done I have printed the cuvette using 3D printed and 2 different materials for comparison. The next step was to test the cuvette for any leakages and prepare it for the UV/spectrometer testing and finally test if the cuvette performs well for the temperature dependent reactions analysis. Of course, at every stage of the project I had different problems and had to do changes to my work to achieve the best performance of the cuvette. For example, for a very long time I could not solve the leakage problem and had to change my design, printing parameters and come up with new ideas how to prevent the leakage but all the problems were solved and final aim was achieved.

From the final year project I have gained confidence in myself and understood that I can apply my theoretical knowledge in chemistry in real life to solve problems. I also improved my presentation skills because I had to present my work to the university staff. And finally I have learned how to listen to other people’s advice and take criticism without taking it personally. All these experience will help me in my further studies because I am doing masters degree next year and in my future career.

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We’d like to wish Jelena every success with her Master’s course and congratulate her on her results and on having a paper published from her work.

 

Edit: You can download Jelena’s paper for free until 14th September

Life as a Student Rep

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.

sophie

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.

 

Student successes

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 week’s journal club – a journal article to discuss

For the journal club on Thursday this week our very own Dr Ian Gass (Senior Lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry) University of Brighton will be discussing the following interesting paper ” Highly Practical Copper (I)/TEMPO Catalyst System for Chemoselective Aerobic Oxidation of Primary Alcohols” by Jessica M. Hoover and Shannon S. Stahl J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2011, 133, 16901-16910.

Ian is well known for making the papers understandable and brings to the club thought provoking articles which have something to offer everyone even if it is out of your own field. Well worth coming along to join in the discussion or just listen. Location is E33 Galileo once again, starting at 12pm

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.