Umar

Chemistry at Oxford

UCAS Personal Statement

Chemistry requires you to be meticulous and precise, whether it be in your calculations or experiments, characteristics I would use to describe myself. During the Oxford UNIQ Chemistry residential I particularly enjoyed working out the mechanism for azo dyes during tutorials and then producing them in the lab; as well as improving my practical skills, the experience highlighted the overlap between both theory and experimentation. While evaluating the mechanisms I was intrigued by how the spread of charge is linked to stability and how that corresponds to the state a species will be in during a reaction. I went on to do my own research on the electronic effect, hyperconjugation, and Gibbs free energy. During weekly UCL Chemistry tutorials, I tackled problems requiring a higher degree of problem-solving skills for more difficult and abstract aspects of Chemistry: solving complex organic mechanisms, figuring out complicated calculations and working with unfamiliar content. The tutorials showed me ways I could go on to expand my knowledge of Chemistry; after they ended I was able to develop my ability to visualise 3D space studying unit cells and predict organic reaction pathways.

 

To satisfy my scientific curiosity I take the initiative to read beyond my syllabus. When covering the orbital model of atoms, rather than simply noting the number of electrons, I questioned how two bonds could be equivalent if they are in different sub-shells. After consulting my teacher, I grasped the concept of hybridisation and can now apply it to varying organic compounds. To enhance my understanding, I frequently complete further reading: during the 'Bonding' topic, I researched Graham's, Charles and Boyle's laws and how they come to form the ideal gas equation. Interested in Particle physics, I examined kinetic theory and vapour pressure and inspired by lectures on animal magnetism, I researched the quantum numbers and learnt of the wave-mechanical model and the Pauli exclusion principle. After reading on electron spin, I could answer my questions following a lecture on Oxygen's magnetic properties; wondering whether all elements are essentially magnetic- I learnt of magnetism beyond ferromagnetism. This is my aim in studying Chemistry: to re-evaluate what I know and continually have my mind blown.

 

I admire Chemistry's versatility and its ability to act as a glue for branches in Science. In Physics, knowledge of particles and thermal systems can help solve chemical problems. My trip to the Diamond Light Source highlighted the importance of Particle Physics in chemical analysis, such as Spectroscopy. Moreover, Molecular Biology is essentially one big chemical reaction, as I discovered during the UNIQ residential when looking at haemoglobin. Later confirming this when reading Nick Lane's 'Life Ascending' where he theorised that life began due to chemiosmosis in deep-sea hydrothermal alkaline vents. Identifying that Chemistry is integral to both Biology and Physics, I took the Olympiad in both- scoring silver and bronze respectively.

 

Leadership, teamwork, and communication are essential for a successful project and to ensure safety in a Chemistry lab. These are skills I have developed through my work as Head Boy and mental wellbeing ambassador at my college.

 

In the future, I intend to employ my scientific ability to work on sustainable energy. Reading Nikola Tesla's 'The Problem with Increasing Human Energy', I noticed that many problems flagged for chemists remain unsolved. Inspired, I attended the Engineering in Action series for a 'future fuels' lecture looking at Geraniol and Diethyl carbonate. The life of Fritz Haber teaches us the immense responsibility of scientists; although his nitrogen fixation alleviated mass starvation, he also fathered chemical warfare. Particles of matter and their interactions have no incentive however, I wish to belong to the culture of scientists who use their properties to benefit our planet and lives.

Behind the Statement

How did you make start on your personal statement or begin planning?

I made two separate brainstorms - one for all of my experiences (extracurriculars, all my subjects, lectures I attended etc) and another dedicated just to chemistry (my favourite topics and why I like the subject). Once I had laid out all of my experiences and interest I then began refining them into just the most relevant ones so that I had a comprehensive set of "talking points" for my personal statement. I then grouped these "talking points" into distinct paragraphs.

How did you decide what experiences to include in your personal statement? What did you cut out?

I had quite a few ideas of what I wanted to include in my statement but due to the character limit, I had to cut quite a few things out. To help me decide what to cut out I tried to make sure I wasn't repeating themes/ideas, for example, when I talked about going "beyond my syllabus" rather than list every single time I had done so I just used a few examples which highlighted this process effectively. Also, anything that didn't link in with the discipline of Chemistry or the interpersonal skills required to be a good chemist was cut out. (no sports, hobbies etc!)

How did you get these experiences in the first place?

Oxford UNIQ Summer/Easter School - a free residential programme offered to state school students by the University of Oxford (lots of fun too!)

 

Engineering in Action - hosted by Education in Action

 

Books - Nick Lane's "Life Ascending", Nikola Tesla "'The Problem with Increasing Human Energy" (not actually very chemistry-related but I could make a few links)

 

Khan Academy - Molecular Orbital Theory

 

TMP Chem - Quantum Chemistry

How did you structure your personal statement? 

I thought it was very important to get started as soon as possible and so I began writing individual paragraphs for each of my chosen topics - I then put them in an order which made the most sense and made adjustments to make it read cohesively. I knew that Oxford didn't care much about extracurriculars and so I only wrote two sentences for them but still linked them back to Chemistry.

How did you decide on an introduction for your personal statement?

I wanted to make it clear that not only was I passionate about chemistry but also that I was a good fit for the subject too.

How did you decide on a conclusion for your personal statement?

Throughout my personal statement I was very concise and straight forward with my interests and experiences and so to contrast this I made the conclusion much more elusive. To further establish my desires to study chemistry, I discussed my future goals and how I would like to (potentially) make use of a chemistry degree.

What do you think are the strengths of your personal statement?

I effectively illustrated my academic curiosity explaining exactly why I am interested in Chemistry and how my experiences and skills make me a good Chemistry candidate. I tried to present myself as "T shaped" - I go into a lot of depth regarding pure Chemistry but also relate my chemical interests with that of similar fields such as Engineering, Physics and Biology.

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