Applicant days are great fun. There. I said it. I actually quite enjoy working as a student ambassador for Chemistry, bouncing around, showing people what we have in the labs, what pieces of instrumentation do, and getting overly excited about practicals. The amusing thing is remembering having been on the other side of the room, as a prospective student!
My first applicant day was back in early 2013. I remember coming here, noseying around the labs, completely forgetting to go and look at accommodation (you should definitely do that!), then talking to students and showing that my maths skills left a little to be desired (I was only 1 order of magnitude out!).
The particularly great thing about the chemistry applicant days is that we can actually go into the labs. Not a “ooh, let’s look at the labs” more a “here’s the lab instructions, and here’s the theory. Now you understand what you’re doing, go for it!” We make students actually complete a first year practical, directly from the syllabus…….
The practical is based off the beer- lambert law- A=εcl (the absorption of light through a sample is directly proportional to the absorptivity constant, concentration and path length). In other words, more of your analyte, the darker the colour. – see the pic!
The “task” for the students is to calculate if the copper concentration of some “industrial waste” is low enough to dump into a river. For this, a calibration curve must be generated (small samples on the left) and then the sample can be diluted and reacted with a complexing agent to give it colour- before the intensity of the colour is measured on a UV-visible spectrophotometer- one of these beasties!
Then finally, it’s just a case of popping everything together, drawing a calibration curve and working out the result!
I personally think this is really important. Not the “waste copper”- but more the chance to come and have a bit of an idea of a typical university practical and also aspects of the university teaching style, the sort of opportunities available and experience a relatively typical first year practical. I know it’s what persuaded me to come to Plymouth!
Aside from the main lab practical, the applicant day also allows you to have a look around the facilities, talk to not just lecturers, but students doing the course, plus get an idea of the city, and the university. Also, the food is pretty good for guests!
The next applicant day is in January but they are also on in February and March (you should have received an invite with your offer!). It is definitely worth coming! And, if you are applying for Chemistry, say hi to the odd guy bouncing around labs and talking excitedly about science- that’s me!