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Four undergraduate students spill the beans on life and chemistry at university.

It's a big molecule, with squiggly bits!

Last night, I had to ring my parents on the walk home from the library because I haven't spoken to them for weeks and this was the only time I didn't have anything more urgent to do ie sleep!

Something occurred to me during this conversation...

I have no idea what the general public knows about chemistry. My mother knows that everything is made of atoms of different elements. She knows what the periodic table is. She even knows that an electron is really really small and travels quite fast. 

I received a PhD offer from UEA not so long ago, and obviously, people keep asking what the project is about. If I'm talking to a chemist, or really most kinds of scientist I can give them the title:
"Studies towards the synthesis of Vancomycin". It's not really that complicated. But to non-chemists...
Me: I'm making vancomycin using organocatalytic asymmetric aziridination.
Mother: Ummm. Is that latin? I don't know those words.
Me: I'm making vancomycin, it's an antibiotic. Like... penicillin.
Mother: Is it new?
Me: No.
Mother: Has anyone made it before?
Me: Yes.
Mother: So what's the point?
Me: Because not only is it a proof of concept for the new aziridination techniques, but its also useful for making analogues which can tackle vancomycin resistant enterococci.
Mother: .......

I think I need to work on my science communication.
Posted by Polly-Anna Ashford on Feb 17, 2010 12:37 PM GMT

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