Thinking of Postgraduate Study?


Following on from my guide to applying for a PhD, I have found a nifty little guide to postgraduate study by, which gives a general overview of postgraduate study, and advertises a few open days you might find appealing.

This blog tends to aim some of its posts towards those who are studying towards a PhD, or those who have already begun a career in chemical research, but this is for you readers who have an interest in chemistry, and may be studying it or something similar at the degree level, and are wondering what to do next.

Postgraduate study can be a confusing and daunting option for some students, and it’s important that you know all the facts so that you can make an informed decision. I don’t necessarily mean PhDs specifically – there is a whole host of postgraduate options a chemistry graduate could take, whether you’re continuing to study science or want to use your skills in another field, such as law or medicine.

I only graduated 2 years ago, and I’m fully aware of how scary your final year at university can be. Suddenly, what you’ve been involved with for 3 or 4 years is coming to an end, and you have big decisions to make about your career and your future.

Postgraduate study can seem appealing because it puts off getting a job and making some decisions for a little bit longer, but this shouldn’t be your reason for carrying on at university. Don’t continue studying because you’ve been rejected from your current job applications and you’re scared you’ll be left with nothing at the end of your degree. Don’t panic. A lot of final year students feel they need to have their graduate job sorted midway through the year, but you really don’t – a lot of people don’t get jobs until around the time they graduate, so try to remain calm, keep at it, and you will get something eventually. If you’re continually turned away from jobs, try talking to your university’s career advice service – they might be able to help you improve your CV and sell yourself at interviews that little bit better.

If you know you want to keep studying because you have a passion for your subject, or you know you need to for your dream career, make sure you use the time you have finding out as much as you can about your options, and don’t make any decisions too quickly. You’re about to commit to something for one to four years, so it’s definitely worth making that extra effort to get yourself on the course that will benefit you the most.

The Prospects magazine linked above is a great start on your route to further education. I suggest you take a look, and see where it takes you!


Nelson Mandela’s Unsung Science Legacy

As I’m sure you are all aware, the great Nelson Mandela passed away last night, and today people around the globe have been remembering him and the amazing legacy he has left behind.

This article from New Scientist describes Mandela’s influence on science in South Africa, and Africa in general, and makes for an interesting read for those who may not be aware of what effect he had in this area.

Nelson Mandela was and continues to be an inspiration to people all over the world, and hopefully his work on improving education will allow Africa to have a more prominent role in the global scientific community.


Green Chemistry – A Fruitful Career Path?

Following on from my Featured Journal segment last week, an article in Nature Careers this week discusses how moving into the green chemistry area can be a prosperous career move.

The article explains how additional training in areas of green chemistry can really add to the skill set of a chemistry graduate, and this ever-expanding area of chemistry is an area which many companies are keen to get involved with.

Green chemistry can be incorporated into all almost all areas of the chemical sciences, by taking into account the life cycle of the processes involved, and the impact each chemical and waste has on the environment.

An intriguing aspect of green chemistry is that the process must not only be environmentally-friendly, but be more efficient than and just as cost-effective as what is currently carried out in industry. This is the great challenge which most green chemists battle against, and why, if their research proves fruitful, they may hit the research jackpot by following this path.

Green chemists aren’t asked for specifically by chemical companies, but applicants with a knowledge of safer and more efficient processes are very valuable.

This article goes into great depth about the benefits of green chemistry to industry, and to your career if you choose to follow a path which incorporates green chemistry into your training. In a world where traditional chemical sources are dwindling and the need for safer and environmentally-friendly processes is greater than ever before, it’s never been a better time to learn more about green chemistry.


Are you smarter than a 16-year old?

I stumbled across this quiz on the BBC Magazine’s website, and thought it was very apt considering this was GCSE results week.

Unfortunately, the results didn’t bode well for the science community, with science grades being down over 7% nationally. This has been mostly attributed to the introduction of new syllabuses and exams. GCSEs in general have received a thorough shake-up since the new government came into power, with boundaries being altered each year so that roughly the same proportion of students get each grade as in previous years. This may have led to students not quite reaching the grades they had hoped for, as boundaries were shifted up to keep the proportions correct.

Grades for separate sciences fell by a smaller amount, which could suggest that treating each science as a different subject may have a positive effect. Unfortunately, not every school offers this choice. Personally, I noticed at sixth form that pupils who had taken separate sciences at GCSE level knew chemistry in much greater detail than us who had taken double science GCSEs, and it took a bit of catch-up during the AS year to reach the same level as them.

For me, if we want students to do better in science, particularly chemistry, they need to learn more about the applications of the science and how they could take it forward through their education. Practical lessons in GCSE chemistry are generally very poor, and contain little to no elements of synthesis. How can we possibly expect pupils to want to be passionate about chemistry if they’re not learning about what it really is and what it involves?  This is something I’m particularly interested in, and I’d very much like one day to be involved in changing the way science is taught in school.

Meanwhile, why don’t you take the quiz, and see how you fare with some typical GCSE science exam questions?