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Durham University


Joanna Starkie

Why did you choose to study Chemistry at Durham University?

I choose Durham because of its brilliant reputation, friendly inclusive collegiate system and small but vibrant town. The Durham Chemistry department is amongst the best in the country both for academic excellence and for the huge amount of support it gives students.

What are your memories of the first few weeks as a newly arrived undergraduate student in Durham?

I remember being amazed at how friendly and helpful everyone was. When I moved into college I didn’t have to move a single box into my room as there were so many pairs of hands happy to help. Freshers week is always busy with lots of people to meet and new routines to get used to. There is too little time to be worried or homesick. The college system is great for making you feel at home and I made some life-long friends in the first week!

What is student life at Durham University like?

Durham students definitely work hard and play hard. There is just so much to get involved with: sports, charity, drama, committees, volunteering, societies, media, music just to name a few. There is something for everyone and if you want to do something different it is very easy to set up a new society. This wide variety of extra-curricular activities allows you to meet a wider group of people and grow personal qualities and transferable skills.

What do you enjoy most about studying and living here?

I have just left Durham to do a 4th year Industrial placement and I miss it! The mixture of like-minded people, supportive lecturers that are passionate about their subject and a great social life all in a beautiful setting, make Durham a fabulous place to work and live.

I had a unique view of the chemistry department by being a course representative, feeding back comments from students to the department. From the first meeting it was evident that the lecturers and department really cared about students’ views and input to the course. This made the whole experience much more enjoyable as students are encouraged to become part of the department in a mutually beneficial relationship.

What is the student community and students' social life at Durham like?

Due to the college system I was able to get more involved in committees to a higher level than friends at other universities. This makes the student community very inclusive and gives you the ability to be a key part in an active student body. Although Durham might not be the biggest in terms of night life, college bars and imaginative social secretaries more than make up for it so there is always something to do.

What was your biggest challenge and your greatest success in your time at Durham so far?

Coming to Durham and realizing I wasn’t the brightest kid in the class was a bit of a culture shock. It showed me I needed to knuckle down and do that extra reading, take good lecture notes and go and see my lecturers if I had a problem. The change from being taught at school to independent learning is a challenge many find hard in adjusting to university life, but the strong network of support that Durham has from both department and college help make this transition as painless as possible.

My greatest successes were getting on target for a first and receiving college half colours for my contributions to sport and committees. It was a great feeling to see my efforts and hard work had been recognized. 

What are your career plans and goals for the future?

I would like to continue a career in chemical research so I hope to go on to do a PHD and then join a research and development group in industry.

How will a Durham Chemistry degree help you achieve these goals?

A degree from Durham will hold me in good stead for whatever I want to go on to do. If I would like to carry on in academia my Chemistry degree gives me a good grounding in most major fields of chemistry and is well respected. While if I would like to join a graduate scheme or get a job Durham graduates are some of the most highly sort after in the country. The board range of skills I have gain from my degree and extracurricular activities helps make me stand out from the crowd.

Is there any advice you'd give to other students thinking about doing Chemistry at Durham?

If you are willing to work hard and play hard choose Durham because it is truly one of the best decisions you could ever make. Do not be put off by Durham’s small size and location – there is more than enough to do and excellent train links make it very easy to get round the country. If you have questions or are unsure contact the department or college or older students and come to an open day!