Why did you choose to study Chemistry at Durham University?
My selection process started with grades, what I could achieve and which universities I could realistically apply to. After that shortlist the open days began. Visiting Durham on the open day made my decision for me, I loved the friendly department, the teaching style offered using tutorials to develop understanding and the huge array of advanced equipment available for use even as an undergraduate.
What are your memories of the first few weeks as a newly arrived undergraduate student in Durham?
A huge excitement and enjoyment at plunging headfirst into the bizarre world of student life. It’s very easy to be intimidated by everything going on around you but the department and college is very helpful and friendly, always supplying contact details of people to email with any concerns and trying to smooth the bump into your new life. I met so many people and forgot so many names, got lost on an hourly basis and regularly attended lectures with the wrong set of notes; but hey, so does everyone and the staff know it.
What is student life at Durham University like?
Hard work, but very rewarding and very fun. Studying chemistry does require some serious work and long hours but the return is well worth the effort and Durham students do know how to have fun in their down time. It’s mainly due to this that the whole city is always buzzing with a really friendly atmosphere. Durham is small but that only means everything you want is within easy walking distance and finding your way around is very simple. Most people, locals included, are really friendly and I felt right at home in no time. Durham is now, hands down my favorite place to live.
What do you enjoy most about studying and living here?
As I’m always telling my friends from home, Durham’s college system is the best approach to student accommodation ever devised, fact. It is such a warm welcoming environment where anything goes and really is the most supportive and constructive environment to move into, both socially and academically. People are willing to help each other through problems and the college libraries are very convenient for a quick look at a core textbook and almost always full of hardworking individuals. Add to that the convenience of having food cooked for you and like my friend said when he visited the college, “you live in a Butlins holiday camp”.
What is the student community and students' social life at Durham like?
It will be almost anything you want it to be. The opportunities for activities available are huge and college life really helps you find new activities to try thanks to the gentle encouragement of your peers. Whatever your taste in leisure time, you will find similar people to you and a place to do whatever you have in mind; be that dancing the night away, walking the hills or shooting each other with foam darts.
What was your biggest challenge and your greatest success in your time at Durham so far?
My first year has already been full of minor victories, and small challenges. I’ve tackled everything from 9am lab sessions to 5pm lectures, sheet ice to sun burn, familiar titrations to liquid nitrogen cold traps the whole experience has been a rollercoaster of ups and very few downs. The largest challenge however possibly the most enjoyable was my end of year research project. This is simply the opportunity for you to show off all the lab skills you’ve gained over the year in the context of a real investigation (topic chosen by you). As well as being a lot of fun, there is a lot to learn from turning up to the lab, finding your synthesis hasn’t worked, turning to the demonstrator and being asked what you intend to do about it. I found the experiments more engaging than anything I’ve done before and the write up requiring more hours than the days seemed to spare. In this way, I passed the final weeks of lab time slaving away on a project which became more personal to me than I cared to admit, and so gave me the biggest satisfaction out of everything I’ve done when I was able to hand in a lab report, which I had justified pride in.
What are your career plans and goals for the future?
My exact career plans are still unclear however I have every confidence that during my four year degree program I will find an area that really appeals to me so that I may continue to further develop in that field. Long term I’d like to continue to practice practical chemistry in a real lab doing “real” science. Already the world of academic research looms and dreams of grand discoveries and world changing research abound.
How will a Durham Chemistry degree help you achieve these goals?
Working in a lab doing practical chemistry would be impossible without the vital skills the degree will teach; and not just chemical knowledge but the team working skills, communication both written and verbal, organization and time management, responsibility and all the others that this degree program will develop in you. Not to mention the very impressive piece of paper presented to you at the end of all that hard work!
Is there any advice you'd give to other students thinking about doing Chemistry at Durham?
Durham is a fantastic place to live and study but ultimately what you get out is what you put in, and that is not just academic achievement but also regarding your social life. Everything you could ever need or want is available in Durham, but these things will require you to invest some time in them. Very few things are just given at university, you must be prepared to go and work for them. If you’re willing to apply yourself, you will love it.