I personally love the setup of the Chemistry course at Plymouth because the amount of contact hours and the focus on practicals is a godsend. My timetable is usually quite busy and was in foundation year too - we have a minimum of 5 hours a week in the lab for each subject/module, and around 10-15 hours of lecture work. But again, this is dependent as the number of hours change based on the modules.
What do you like most?
I like spending a ridiculous amount of time pouring over books and learning as much of the theory as I can until it’s etched into my brain alongside childhood memories… but unless I can go into a lab and put the exact theory I’ve learned in lectures into making the very compound we have been learning about, the information doesn’t really stick. This is the main reason that the minimum of 5 hours possible practical time a week at Plymouth is really helpful when trying to understand different reactions.
What’s your favourite topic?
While I was in foundation year, I really liked organic chemistry; there is just something fascinating about being able to break something down to its base components and rebuild something completely different. There is also a certain catharsis to drawing out full organic mechanisms and knowing what each step looks like on paper and what it would look like in the lab.
What’s on offer?
Plymouth offers masters and PhD courses in Chemistry, which mainly focus on the environmental and the analytical sides of chemistry. This means I have access to all of the instruments used in the masters course; for example, as well as learning to interpret spectra and what each peak and trough means, we also learn how the machine works and what its real life applications are. I haven’t figured out what I want to do after my chemistry bachelors, but these facilities give me an idea of what it would be like. We’re taught how to use each of these instruments and how they work internally, which gives us an in depth knowledge of the instruments used in labs and the ability to work with them without additional training. This is something the Chemistry department prides itself on.
It’s the backing up the theory with practical examples that I like most, in both lab work and lectures. Also not just using analytical instruments, but understanding the principle behind using them and how they work, that makes me enjoy chemistry at University of Plymouth.
How does the course work?
Here’s an example: the organic chemistry modules are organised around the lab sessions; this means that a practical lab on a “Grignard Reagents: The Synthesis of 2-Methylhexan-2-ol” will then be followed up by a couple of lectures on the intermolecular forces and reaction mechanisms which make this reaction possible. This gives me a direct practical link to the theoretical information in lectures and it was the promise of this style of learning that made me choose Plymouth to begin with.
How is the course set up?
Half of the course consists of coursework, whether it is writing out the labs that you have completed or researching a new discovery and writing an abstract (or several) on it. This coursework-based learning and grading is a lot nicer in my opinion, as you have a sort of safety net when it comes to the exams - you have 50% of the module complete and graded before you even walk into the exam hall.