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My Inspiration to Continue Studying Chemistry at University

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The physical basis for Chemistry is something rarely visited in the classroom and it explains many natural phenomena that I held as the truth without question. An example of this is how water should freeze to a more ordered state even though it’s commonly accepted that ‘entropy always increases’. After reading “Why Chemical Reactions Happen”, I understood this statement was not complete and rather the ‘entropy of the universe must increase for a spontaneous process’. Applied to the context of water, whilst the entropy of the system (the water) decreases on freezing, the entropy of the surroundings increases due to the heat released caused by formation of hydrogen bonds. The book made me realise how important it is to question all things that are commonly accepted, and it excited me to see how these same principles could be applied elsewhere. Since then, I have completed an online course, “The Chemistry of Life”, based at Kyoto University. Something that interested me was how the knowledge of hydrogen bonding and the partial double-bond character of the C-N bond allowed Dr Linus Pauling to reveal the secrets of protein folding. By drawing a short peptide, with accurate bond angles, and folding the paper α-carbons led to the discovery of the alpha-helix structure. The alpha-helix, much like the frozen water, is clearly more ordered than the unfolded protein, but it is as a result of the hydrogen bonds (and other intramolecular forces) that leads to a total increase in entropy of the universe.

I have participated in the 2018 Chemistry Olympiad and the University of Cambridge C3L6 Challenge, earning a Bronze certificate and a silver certificate respectively. The papers required the application of knowledge to new situations, a challenge I liked. Also organised by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), I have been part of a school team at the School’s Analyst Competition. I also used equipment not available in our school laboratory, such as a spectrophotometer and an air-displacement pipette. After enjoying two competitions organised by the RSC, I became a student member, visiting their library in Burlington House and learning about careers in Chemistry. I also joined the society in their trip to a gin distillery seeing the entire process from grain to glass and conversations with other members led me to read “The Chemical History of a Candle”. During the summer, I organised research work experience at Medway School of Pharmacy, which forms the basis of my EPQ. I had to research preventative healthcare programmes and biomarkers, then look for a way to test for glucose colorimetrically using a dry indicator. Software analyses the RGB values to provide data about the concentrations of biomarkers in blood and whether they are within the healthy range. I was also tasked with testing the software by seeing whether the concentrations are within an acceptable error margin when pictures are taken in different conditions. Upon finishing my placement, I wrote a report about my research which will be published. The whole experience was exhilarating and I especially enjoyed the freedom I was given with support when I needed it. I loved taking part in actual research which will eventually benefit peoples’ lives. In my spare time, I like to fence, earning a grade 2 in British Foil Fencing. I also enjoy thrill-seeking activities such as scuba diving, bungee jumping and skydiving. On Fridays, I volunteer at a hospice where I am surrounded by the applications of chemistry.

The experience of complete immersion in the experiments I have done at school, during challenges and the summer, combined with my fascination with theoretical chemistry, have consolidated my decision to exclusively study chemistry at university.

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