Physical Natural Sciences

Applied in: Winter 2013

University Offers: Cambridge, Imperial College, UCL, Durham, King's College

It is the marriage of physics and chemistry on the atomic scale that particularly interests me. The interdisciplinary nature of the physical sciences and mathematics on this level enlightens the workings of the universe. I marvel at how a handful of rules can be applied and, in principle, extended to explain all the phenomena of our world.

My interest in the boundaries between the physical sciences was developed by research into Thermodynamics. I particularly enjoyed the approach to the second law via statistical mechanics in Atkins' 'Four Laws That Drive the Universe' which gave a more satisfying explanation of entropy than the classical alternative. The chance to study Thermodynamics through rigorous mathematics is something that principally draws me towards a course in thermal and statistical Physics enabling me to draw links and resources from all aspects of my study.

My desire to further understand quantum theory meant delving far beyond the A-level course. Feynman's QED quenched my thirst for an understandable explanation closer to the current understanding of reality. Upon finishing, however, I understood it was still a gloss-over and any further exploration of the field requires an understanding of the mathematics behind the subject. I look forward to achieving this. I have sought to better my understanding of complex ideas - such as the link between quantum and information theory - by further reading of recent articles highlighting the power of the overlap between these two fields. These inspired me to write an essay on quantum information theory selected by my school and entered into the Cambridge Kelvin Science Essay competition.

The practical aspects of physics and chemistry have complemented my study of the sciences by nurturing in me a more sceptical outlook as I seek to test theory through experiment. I embarked on a project to research the chemistry of Grignard reagents focusing on the mechanisms involved in a complex multi-step synthesis. This led me towards reading chapters in Clayden, Greeves, Warren and Wothers' 'Organic Chemistry' relevant to organometallics. I was fascinated by the use of molecular orbital theory to explain the reasons behind the mechanisms and properties of the carbonyl group. The research and practical culminated in a lab report which won the School Independent Research Project Prize.

During a week of work experience in UCLs CMMP research laboratories I assembled and operated a scanning tunnelling microscope to image graphite. The highlight of the project was the collection of convincing evidence for the existence of atoms. Having previously been told to accept these elusive particles were the building blocks of all matter, seeing them with my own eyes was remarkable. I particularly enjoyed then using theoretical ideas of orbital overlap to explain the diamond tiled output different to the hexagonal layers of carbon in graphite. Furthermore, I witnessed an atomic force microscope being used to investigate the effect of doping silicon. I have explored the scientific world through discussion with peers and I saw the opportunity for learning via discussion with a student on solid state and band theory as an explanation for these effects.

I captain the school cross-country team and love the sport. I run six times a week but despite the time I spend running I believe it benefits my study as I plan ahead. As Head of House I spearhead concerts, plays and sports competitions. I run a science club at Burdett-Coutts CE School. We perform experiments and it is reaffirming to see the children as excited by science as I was, and still am. I am still intrigued by the underlying mechanisms of the universe, passionate about understanding and unifying physical principles, and hungry to achieve my ambition to revolutionise the world through science.

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