Physical Natural Sciences

Applied in: Winter 2013

University Offers: Cambridge, UCL, Durham, Birmingham, Lancaster

Science seeks to explain the world around us, from why water expands when it freezes to the inner workings of the human brain. I always want to understand how and why things work, and science helps me to answer these questions. Having a firm basis in multiple sciences aids comprehensive research. I saw this when preparing an essay on different approaches to modelling the human brain. I was interested to see how mathematical models were used to build up computer simulations based on knowledge and experimental data from neuroscience, biology and physics.

I'm excited by the chance to do a research project in the final year, as well as studying new sciences such as psychology to broaden my learning. I am struck by the interdisciplinary nature of science and realise that my study of maths will be useful in continuing science at a higher level. This was particularly apparent in studying rates of reaction in both physics and chemistry. I have also found that learning basic principles in these subjects often mean that unfamiliar problems can be understood more easily. For example, an understanding of exponential decays can be used to model various situations such as capacitor discharge or radioactive decay.

I have enjoyed the test of applying my knowledge of chemistry to new problems in the Chemistry Olympiad and the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge. I find it striking that the elements are all made up of the same basic building blocks yet have such different properties. Through studying chemistry I have begun to learn reasons for these differences, for example how electron shielding and nuclear charge affect the electronegativity of an element. I am also interested in the history and stories behind the elements which I learnt more about when reading The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean. The book explained Knowles's ingenious way of favouring a specific enantiomer in a reaction through using a chiral catalyst. This highlighted how problems can require innovative solutions in order to mimic elegant processes that occur in nature.

I enjoyed learning about the wave-particle duality of light. This brought an exciting new perspective to the concept of light. I therefore decided to carry out a physics project to measure Planck's constant using LEDs, overcoming problems such as how to work out at what voltage the LED was just glowing. I also carried out an extended project in chemistry in which I used infrared spectroscopy to analyse a sample of paracetamol that I had synthesised. The synthesis was a multistage process where I had greater control over my own work and it was exciting to see that I'd succeeded in making the product. I have enjoyed the problem-solving nature of using electron pair repulsion theory as well as interpreting mass and infrared spectra to work out the structures of compounds. During a week of work experience at the Pharmacology Department in Cambridge I saw how atomic force microscopy could also be used to help identify shapes of molecules. The week also showed me how perseverance is vital to work in a laboratory as experiments may take many trials before achieving meaningful results.

I am involved in variety of extracurricular activities, from weekly tap lessons and volunteering at a local primary school to working backstage in plays. I am a part of my school Chamber Choir and I'm preparing for my Grade 8 singing exam. The expeditions for my Gold D of E award were challenging, enabling me to work in a team. I used my peer supporter skills during the summer, when I acted as a leader on a summer camp and when I spent a residential week caring for physically and mentally handicapped people. Both experiences were hard work but very rewarding.

My passion for science is complemented by my enjoyment of working with others. Scientific research is continuously progressing and there's always more to discover. I'm excited to carry on my study of science and continue to learn and explore.

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