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Hi, my name is Amy, and i am a self confessed Chemistry nerd, and life long science enthustist, come and read my blog as I document my time at through college and university as I study chemistry to become a chemistry teacher. Please note, glasses are optional

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Hello readers, sorry I’ve not updated much lately, but I’d had a few problems with my health and the health of my loved ones, so this post comes kind of late this time! So I apologize for my lateness.  My first full term as a chemistry undergrad is over, and it has been a tough but an enjoyable learning curve!!
Before I started university I was told that university is a lot easier than A-levels, which I can say now is majorly untrue!  There is a big jump between university and A-levels, and it can be difficult to make that leap. Many people think that going to university is, to coin the phrase, ‘a doss’, but nothing can be further from the truth.
Over the last few months, my days have been awash of lectures, notes, lab reports, coursework and phase tests! Chemistry is not an easy subject and shouldn’t be taken lightly! However give it the respect and work it deserves and you will find that it reaps great rewards! (This is true with any subjects at university level in fact).
Presently, I attend university three days a week as a full-time undergrad, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, with Tuesdays and Fridays as my days off. I have lab sessions, every week, in which we are given a set experiment we preform, we gain data, and write up in a report for the following session. Lab sessions take up a full day, at the moment, my Mondays, where I am in the lab for six hours. On a Wednesday we have lectures in organic, inorganic and physical chemistry, each lasting an hour each, followed a tutorial session, alternating between lecturers depending on the week. We cover extra work, worked examples and discuss coursework techniques. Thursdays we have a three hour analytical chemistry lecture, as my chosen chemistry course is heavily grounded in analytical chemistry, and applications in the work setting, which was the main reason I picked my course. Analytical chemistry was a subject in chemistry I had never come across before, and of course before I started I was quite nervous of this fact. However, analytical chemistry wasn’t as difficult as I thought, essentially, it is the application of each area of chemistry and its application in the laboratory, admittedly though, it does require some lateral thinking and further reading.
Though I am only in university three days a week, this does not mean this course is any easier than any Russell group university! We have staggered coursework, meaning that we often have a piece of coursework accounting to our final grade each week, as well as our weekly lab write ups. Although, we have up to three weeks to complete each piece, which is needed if a piece is particularly long or challenging!
During the first year, we do not have Christmas exams; however, we have miniature tests, accounting to our final grade in analytical chemistry. Known as phase tests, these are 45 minute tests taken under exam conditions roughly every three weeks and covers any work that we have covered leading up to that particular test.
Also, as part of the course, we are required to set up and run our own e-portfolios of our studies, and the work we do within and outside the university. We include our own self-evaluations, action plans to improve ourselves and gain further work, and physical evidence of our work or achievements. This part of the course, also requires us to attend workshops, to improve our employability skills, these can include workshops on how to improve your CV, how to write an effective covering letter, or how avoid pitfalls in interviews.
All this work isn’t including the notes and the further reading needed to be carried out before and after each lecture!
I hope this doesn’t make your head spin readers!
So as my second term looms round the corner, what advice do I have for prospective students, and current undergrad students?
Clearly, preparation is key, you are your preparation, and nothing is worse than that last minute cram! If taken steadily, it can all be achieved, with time to spare to spend with friends and family, if you can balance both the work and your downtime. Balancing this ratio is the hardest problem faced by all first-time undergraduate students! Secondly, if all of this isn’t for you, then say so! There is no shame in admitting when something isn’t exciting you as much as it did before. It has happened to me in the past, and if something isn’t making you happy, then what is the point of forcing yourself to pursue it? As my mother always says, ‘there are ways and means around every problem’, and if a course isn’t for you, but you fancy being a forensic pathologist, then by all means change your view and try something new! Not enjoying what you used to love doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it means you have grown into another branch a subject that does interest you! Thirdly, and ultimately, keep calm; everything may seem to be piling up on top of you, exams, coursework, applications, etc. but by retaining a level head and not panicking means your brain will be clearer to think and you will generate more ideas and be able to concentrate more on the tasks at hand!
So if I haven’t scared you all off with the honest amount of work that needs to be put in with a university course, I hope to catch up with you all soon!
Posted by Amy King on Jan 10, 2014 3:07 AM GMT

This week marks my first week of university and after a few days of nervous waiting for course to start I’m now finally in the swing of it!

My fresher’s started with a meet and greet event at our local pub on campus, giving me chance to meet some of my course mates and some of the students living on campus. Everyone seemed so lovely and welcoming, it really put my freshers nerves at ease! After a few drinks and a bit of dancing we broke up for the weekend, to start the official fresher’s on Monday.

On Monday we got chance to meet our course-leader, a very lovely man called Dr Mendham, along with one of our lecturers for inorganic chemistry Dr Coleman, both lecturers made everyone feel very at ease with their informal chats and tours, which made them feel more approachable than just staff. The day finished on an informative lecture on one of my favourite subjectschocolate! With a couple of practical demonstrations, and taste tests!

Tuesday continued with meeting staff as we meet our personal tutors. Our group of around twenty five student were split up into groups of around three to seven for each tutor. We were then given information about the course and important information about events happening in our school.

Finally today, we had a mini-freshers fair, in which our university had various stalls with information for new students. Unfortunately, as our sister universities do not start until this coming Monday, our main fair isn’t until next week, but this fair gives the Greenwich students a taster of student life, as well as a bag full of freebies!

Later on this week, we are to get our computer logins and a session on how to use our libraries resources, which I’m very excited for, as the library was one of the deciding factors in my choice of university. We will also be having another mini lecture on what it means to be a chemist as well as having a freshers quiz put on by our chemical society.

All in all, I feel really welcome by my new institution, and though I will greatly miss college, I feel very happy and settled at the university of Greenwich.

Roll on the lectures!

Posted by Amy King on Sep 22, 2013 4:12 PM GMT
Posted by Amy King on Sep 22, 2013 4:12 PM GMT
Sorry for those who follow my blog and know that I haven’t updated my blog recently, however I was having dental surgery done over the last few weeks, as well as having a general tough time of it all. However, I do want to say  a few words about our recent summer exams and impending results day.

So we have all finished our exams now, after many weeks of long and sleepless nights, the tears and the tantrums,  now we are waiting on our important results, andfor many students up and down the country, the confirmation of our universityplacement.

With under a week left for English (and possibly Welsh) students to receive their results and acceptance or rejection of their firm university placements, nerves are starting to fray. The same nervous energy that we all experienced whilst taking our exams, is slowly starting to build and causing tempers to snap, nails to be bitten, and in my case, terrifying nightmares of losing all my teeth, and being Alexander Armstrong’s latest squeeze.

Even though the wait feels unbearable, it’s a final hurdle for us all, the ending of an era, but a starting of a new, for our first real taste of adulthood, of living alone, housework and bills. University holds a new world of experiences for us all, and we, the students of 2013 are on the cusp now of experiencing it, and it is this, that I look forward to the most.

Good luck students of 2013, fingers crossed…….we can do it!
Posted by Amy King on Sep 22, 2013 4:11 PM GMT
Posted by Amy King on Sep 22, 2013 4:10 PM GMT
There is one C work that makes every students blood run cold in terror.....COURSEWORK. Investigative skills assessments or Externally Marked Practical Assignments are universally described as the bane of most students’ existence! I cannot tell you the amount of students I speak to that find practical exams the hardest part of their a-level courses. I am quite surprised by students that say that they hate practicals in science. To me, science is a practical subject, with chemistry being the most ‘hands-on’ of them all. Essentially within science, we are understanding the world around us, and being able to model its applications into situations where it would not necessarily commonly be found. However, this entry is not meant to discuss the big issues of science in the world, for that there are many arguments to even consider an informed opinion, instead, I wish to talk about practical’s within school/college laboratories and the evolution of practical coursework.

I am in a fortunate situation, where the college that I currently attend have a very hand on science department, and practicals are conducted with gusto and enthusiasm. When choosing my college after returning to conventional education, this was one of my biggest contributory factors of why I made the college my first choice. I had previously been at a college where practicals were few and far between. When I had left due to my ill health, I barely knew how to light a Bunsen burner! Coursework had also been a major part of our A-level and GCSE examinations, however, its practical nature had a lesser influence over the more modern coursework that takes place in colleges and schools across the nation today.

In 2007, the scientific coursework, (at least for biology and chemistry which I took at the time) was largely essay based, requiring the students before any practical work to research thoroughly the methods they were going to used to perform their experiments. Students were required to construct their own investigation for their individual topic, consider an objective and analyse any results and come to their own conclusions of the experiment and critique themselves, almost completely independently. This would sometimes take students an age, and I can remember one of my own pieces, when partially written up, as being over thirty-four pages long. It was essential a magnum opus of chemical knowledge! This coursework could take a student up to three to four weeks to complete, and at each stage, a draft would need to be submitted and critiqued by tutors. Though to many students this would seem to be a welcome relief from the pressure of practical coursework under time conditions, essay based coursework was extremely hard to get good marks on for most students, and was often left to the last minute, requiring many a sleep-less night and a cafe full of coffee to complete this tedious task by the deadline.

Having undertaken coursework in both forms, I am very grateful that coursework has now evolved into the more practical, ‘hands on’ examination it has become. To me, I feel better prepared by it, to be able to carry out practical’s in a laboratory setting than I ever have before. However, with any examination, the current coursework has its bad point. The integrated, ‘how science works’ part of the syllabus for all exam boards, like for many students, is rather hard to understand, it seems to only partially prepare you for the practical assessments that make up part of the course, it therefore falls to the ability of the teaching staff to get you through these tough, but rigorous parts of the A-level examination.

However, once fully understood coursework can either make, or break your grade, thus for this reason, it should be properly prepared for, and not treated lightly.
Posted by Amy King on Feb 13, 2013 12:57 AM GMT
Hello fellow bloggers. Those who follow my blog, will know that I have not been posting much recently, and for that I do apologise, I have been dealing with a lot of personal issues this last month, due to my own health and my family, but I am pleased to report, I’m back, and that even though I am down, I am not out of the game!

I am just about to start my final few months left at Bromley College, and I am quite sad to think in just over five months my time at the college will come to an end. However I hope that I will be able to move on to other successful projects like the ones I have undertaken with them!

On the note of other successful projects, I can tell you I have almost had all of my offers from my UCAS. I am currently due for an interview at my final choice university, Imperial College. I’m quite nervous, as I’ve heard a lot of horror stories from people who have had interviews with them in the past. I’m hoping the interview will be like my last interview, which oddly enough I was completely relaxed in, and I rather enjoyed!

Due to my personal issues, I was forced to miss my January exams for my Fourth Units, which I was really upset over. I had worked very hard for them, and was gutted to not be able to attend. This means that I will have to sit my Unit Fours and Unit Fives in the summer. This work load is huge, however I feel like I am in a good place, and feel confident, that I’ll be able to succeed!

So this is my quick catch up with everyone. I’m excited to start back at college (even though at the moment my college is closed due to snow!) and finishing up my final year!
As a side note, I’m thinking of overhauling my blog, changing my name to ‘GlamChem’ what does everyone think?
Posted by Amy King on Jan 20, 2013 8:58 PM GMT
Many of you that read my blog regularly will know that universities are a major theme in most of my posts. I, like many A2 students up and down the country, am in the process of my decision for the next step in my paths in education, this, I know, in not a decision to take lightly, and as many of my friends and family can vouch, I am researching every choice with great care and diligent.

Over my summer break, I attended all my chosen university open days, a vital step, in my opinion, on the path to making a decision. For one of my choice universities, I have attended several of their open days. Most recently I have attended a taster day hosted by the university, in a bid to gain more of an insight into university life, and to get down to the knitty gritty of what my chosen choice would entail, and I can say, without a doubt, I was not disappointed.

The reason I enjoy chemistry as I do is that behind the theory of each topic, I can physically get to grips with the concepts explained to me. Each aspect of chemistry has a practicality to it, something I can physically do and see, and to me that makes me feel even more like a scientist.

On the open day, we were split into groups, performing two different chemical tasks during the day. In the first task we preformed, we went into the universities laboratories and measured the release of fluoride ions from toothpaste. We were told that fluoride ions were an important part of tooth structure and the structure of teeth is constantly being broken down and renewed, hence the reason we need a constant supply of fluoride ions. We were told that the best way of getting these ions to our teeth was by using fluorinated toothpastes; we then heard how different toothpastes have different concentrations of fluoride ions, locked up in different compounds, such as, monofluorophosphate. We were then given a range of different toothpastes and told to pick one to test, once we had chosen we were give screw-capped test tubes, and distilled water with the instruction to fill the tubes with 25cm3 of distilled water, and carefully measure and add 1 cm3 of our sample toothpaste. Once we had our water-toothpaste mixture were then secured the top back on to the test-tube and shook the tube vigorously for at least 3 minutes to ensure that the toothpaste had fully dissolved and the ions were free in the solution. After this, we then took turns in using an electrode in our toothpaste solutions to measure the fluoride ion concentration, following a few simple calculations, we then gained the mass of fluoride released by the toothpaste when brushing, we compared this to expected mass of fluoride released to see if they agreed with the values given by the toothpaste manufacturer. After the experiment, we then evaluated the procedure, looking at areas that could be improved upon. We also touched upon the use of fluoride in drinking water to reduced decay in teeth, learning about its effects on growing children, and adults, we also spoke about where fluorination of water sources still occurred. We finally spoke about how toothpaste manufacturers tested the effectiveness of their product, by testing toothpaste on dead cow’s teeth!

After a short lunch break we then returned to the labs to perform an NMR spectrum. I have to admit now, to this point, performing an NMR spectrum has to be one of the highlights of my student career, and it was when I was sat in front of a computer, with lab coat on and goggles over my eyes, that I truly felt like a real scientist!

In the NMR spectrum laboratory, our group preformed an NMR spectrum on three unknown compounds. Before we started we were given a quick overview of NMR spectroscopy, of the different environments protons can be in, and how these environments corresponds to peaks on the NMR spectrum, we also learnt briefly about spin-spin splitting of the peaks, and how this splitting pattern gives us information of the protons on the neighbouring atoms. After this brief insight into the theory we were then given the opportunity to run our own spectra. Each student in turn was given an unknown sample to place into the NMR machine and programmed details, such as the position of the sample into a linked computer. We then let the computer run the sample and were presented with a spectrum of our unknown substance, by then comparing the number of peaks, and so the number of different environments, we could then determine the compound by comparing it to a list of possible compound identities. After we had run our spectra, we then heard briefly about the theory of how the NMR machine works, how the superconducting magnets were supercooled to 4K by liquid helium, surrounded by a layer of liquid nitrogen. After this, the fun began, as a group we went outside of the labs with a canister of liquid nitrogen and an insulating glove, we then took some leaves and dipped them into the liquid nitrogen causing the leaf structure to shatter like glass as we threw them to the floor, we also preformed a few other entertaining demonstrations with the liquid nitrogen, such as showing how the ground is super hot compared to the liquid nitrogen and causes the poured liquid to instantly turn to gas when it hits the ground and how when liquid nitrogen is poured onto a puddle, the water freezes into thick ice.

After this final afternoon session, we had a Q&A session where we could approach the lecturers and speak with them directly about the chemistry we preformed and ask general questions about the course and the university. I found all the lecturers to be very friendly down to earth people, we seemed genuinely interested in my views and my career path, and seemed very keen on helping me succeed and pushing me to achieve my maximum potential with many tempting opportunities, such as PHDs and research aboard!

All in all, the taster day really opened my eyes about what opportunities are available to me, and how to go about getting the best start in my future career, and giving me a clearer insight on the inner working of how my future degree would progress.
Posted by Amy King on Nov 19, 2012 12:17 AM GMT
It’s been nearly two months since I started my second year of Bromley College, and I’m finally back in the thick of the action! Since being back homework and studies have taken up much of my time, as well as finalising my UCAS form and sending it off (finally) on the 22nd of October. As to date, I have heard back from three of the four institutes I have applied to. One university, giving me an offer within two days of receiving my UCAS form (which I was utterly shocked about!). I have also had offers for interviews, which has quickly become the one of scariest concepts ever, only narrowly beaten by taking those brave steps into the exam hall, to take those dreaded exams!

With the spare time, I have had, I’ve dedicated it to my old student ambassador role. Such as being part of a college focus group, meeting with our college’s principle, Sam Parrett, to talk about changes to Bromley College. I have also recently, been re-elected to be class representation, however this year I got my dream role of repping for chemistry! The year before, I had been repping for biology. So far I have attended only one rep meeting, and have another coming up in the next few weeks.

Another aspect of being back in the swing of things is even more practical experiment. Practicals have been coming thick and fast in my second year. As with each new aspect of chemistry we study, the knowledge we learn is backed up with a simple demonstration of said aspect in action.

So far, we have covered reactions in aromatic and carbonyl compounds; now have moved on to carboxyl compounds and their reactions, and most recently, the study of amines.

We performed some basic tests on the carboxyl compounds ethanoic acid, investigating its solubility with water and the pH of the resulting solution. After concluding that carboxyl compounds are highly soluble in water and result in an acidic solution, we then went about testing the acidic strength of the carboxyl group, by testing it reacting it with sodium carbonate to see if it was strong enough to displace the CO3 and produce carbon dioxide. Finally in our investigation of glacial ethanoic acid, we investigated its formation of salt, via neutralisation. We added small amounts of sodium hydroxide to the acid, testing its pH and its ability to produce carbon dioxide from sodium carbonate. We saw that with each addition of sodium hydroxide, the resulting solution increased in pH and was less able to react with sodium carbonate to produce carbon dioxide.

In a later experiment, we also prepared the organic product, aspirin, from its constituents, ethanoic anhydride (also known as acetic anhydride) and salicylic acid, with phosphoric acid catalyst. We heated this mixture under reflux in a water bath. After heating we added a little distilled water to the reaction mixture, before pouring the synthesised aspirin and water mixture into a breaker of distilled water, to crystallise out the insoluble aspirin. After we had synthesised the aspirin we then carried out steps to purify it. We used the process of vacuum filtration and recrystalisation, using a water solvent, to gain reasonably pure crystals of aspirin. After this we then used a melting point tube with a thermometer and a capillary tube of our aspirin to measure the boiling point of our aspirin.

Most recently we have begun our studies of amine compounds, as we our carboxylic compounds. We preformed some basic investigative tests on them, for this test we studied the reactions of butyl-amine, ethyl 4-aminobezoate and ammonia. We tested all three compounds solubility in water and the resulting pH of the solutions. We concluded that, of butyl-amine, and ammonia were readily soluble in water, where as ethyl 4-aminobezoate was not, and required heating to dissolve. We also concluded that all three compounds resulted in basic solutions, with of butyl-amine and ammonia, having a pH of around 10, whereas ethyl 4-aminobezoate had a pH of around 8.5. We then tested the compounds ability to form salts, we added to a small amount of each amine, hydrochloric acid, drop wise and then smelt the solution, testing to see if the odours disappeared.

We then moved on to the formation of azo dyes using aromatic amines. In the formation of the dyes we proved that azo dyes can only be formed from aromatic amines, (in our case ethyl 4-aminobenzoate), by performing the experiment, using an aliphatic amine, butylamine, and water, as a control. We placed three separate beakers full our experimental solutions we were testing on our bench, and added 10 cm3 of aqueous sodium nitrate. Whilst letting the mixture stand, we prepared our naphthalene-2-ol (already in sodium hydroxide) by mixing it with cold water. We then added around 20cm3 of naphthalene-2-ol to each of the mixtures and watching as the colour of the azo dye instantly formed, in the ethyl 4-aminobenzoate beaker, whilst the aliphatic amine produced a thick precipitate, and the water did not change. Then using our formed azo dye, we each took a few small scraps of fabric and placed them into the mixture, before pulling them out and allowing them to dry on watch-glasses, to prove that azo dyes could be used to dye fabrics.

Our studies then turned to other types of nitrogen containing compounds, amino acids and proteins. We preformed more basic experimental tests on these compounds. In our tests we used glycine, glutamic acid, as well as casein hydrolysate (free amino acids found in milk). We started by testing their acidity and basicity, by adding small quantities of sodium hydroxide to each of the compounds, and then repeating with hydrochloric acid and noting down their change in pH of each compound, as the solutions were added. We also preformed a biuret test, a test common to many biologists! We added equal volumes of our amino acids to sodium hydroxide followed by 1 drop of 0.1M copper(II) sulphate, looking for the present of a purple precipitate if the compound was indeed an amino acid (or a protein), sadly we did not manage to take any photo graphs of the precipitate formed.

We have most recently moved on to addition and condensation polymers, before we broke up for half term. We had a very informal lab session, where we were allowed to ‘play’ with polyamides (forming and colouring nylon 6,6,) and cross-linked polymers. In the formation of nylon 6,6, we took a very small beaker and placed a small amount of the acid, 1,6-hexanedioic acid in the bottom, and at room temperature we added drop-wise the amine, 1,6-hexanadiamine until we saw an interface form, at this point we took tweezers and pinched the interface and carefully pulled it forming the nylon thread and wound it around a test tube. Next we moved on with forming our crossed-linked polymer, we took 20 cm3 of standard school grade PVC glue, and added 10 cm3 of borat, and mixed the solution with a glass rod, I was transported back to my childhood days as the mixture before me turned into horrible (colored by food coloring) slime! It was one of the best ways to end our first term of the year!

In physics we have covered a lot in the last few weeks, he have covered oscillations and SHM, and performing various experiments, such as, investigating the effect of spring constant on the time period and speed on oscillations, and various experiments on the effect of resistive forces on oscillation and the effect of damping. Our studies then moved onto fields, we have been learning about gravitational fields, unfortunately we only managed to perform one experiment estimating the acceleration of falling objects. In this experiment, we took a weighted plate, attaching a 30 g mass of blue tack and dropping the plate through a light gate, taking various readings of the time it took for the plate to drop from a set height. We then preformed a few calculations to find the acceleration of the plate, and as we assumed there were no other forces acting on the plate, acceleration of g. Most recently, we have moved on to looking at electric fields, meaning we have had the chance to use a van der Graaff generator, and perform simple tasks involving static electricity.

In biology, we have moved onto the interesting biochemistry involved with photosynthesis, after spending the last 5 weeks studying ecology. This new topic meant we were able to perform some interesting experiments involving separation of chlorophyll using paper chromatography, and practicing a past ISA task, involving exploring the effect of ammonium hydroxide on the time taken for chloroplasts to decolorize DCPIP ( a blue dye that becomes colorless as it accepts electrons and becomes reduced).

So after a first busy half a term back at college, I am back in the swing of things.
Posted by Amy King on Nov 4, 2012 2:21 AM GMT
Hello there, fellow bloggers.

First of all, I must apologize for my recent absent from my blog posts, but as with many students up and down the country, UCAS time has arrived, and I have spent the last week weeks finishing that off before my college’s deadline. Then once I had finished that, I had various half term tests in all my classes, so I spent every last moment studying for those tests. Finally it was then half term, I’ve spent nearly the whole week getting organised, printing exam papers and getting my notes in order before going back to college.

So bear with my fellow nerds! I am now taking some time to catch up on my blog, and update you all with the ups and downs of my chemical journey.

I also like to tell you all, I have had, to this point, 2 conditional offers, from UCAS application, Greenwich and Queen Mary’s London, and had an offer of an interview from UCL. I am just awaiting on information from Imperial College London (so readers keep your fingers crossed for me!)

Please note for my readers on Tumblr( I am struggling to upload videos, so until this is fixed, I will not be able to post videos. If this is not resolved, I may have to consider other options to upload my videos, such as getting my own YouTube channel and linking them from there. Any thoughts or opinions would be very much appreciated.

Until soon!
Posted by Amy King on Nov 3, 2012 2:32 AM GMT
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