What’s it like studying Chemistry?

Louis Jones

Why might you want to study more Chemistry?

Chemistry is something you’ve probably studied in one way or another since pre-GCSE – so why spend at least another 3 years of your life studying it?

Getting down to the nitty gritty – the ‘whys?’ of chemistry!

For me, there were two main reasons. First, I really wanted to understand more of the ‘why?’ part of chemistry. A-level chemistry does an excellent job of explaining the ‘what’, such as the arrangements of electrons in orbitals or the fact that spectroscopy can be used to identify different molecules, but the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ are hidden behind a shroud of mystery which was ‘degree level content’.

Free lab coat, anyone?

The other thing that really drew me to chemistry was the labs. While most labs involve reacting chemicals together and playing with big, complicated machines which can be (very) scary at first, they are a lot of fun. You are given lab partners which gives you a really easy way to make course friends. On top of this, chemistry is one of the only degrees at Durham where you are given a free lab coat (and I really wanted my own lab coat)!

Why Durham?

Durham has one of the top ranked chemistry departments in the UK and the modules on offer throughout the course really piqued my interest. As Durham is a Russell Group university, we are taught by lecturers who are simultaneously researching the field they lecture in. One of the modules that particularly caught my attention before I joined was computational chemistry as I’d never considered the idea of running chemical simulations before, and the fact that this was something new and intriguing really made me want to learn more. One of the other factors was the fact that Durham makes it clear that they offer a large amount of lab time for undergraduates and there are specific lab modules.

Apart from Chemistry, Durham is such a lovely city. It is very small but is rich in history and is full of amazing buildings like the cathedral, which towers above everything in the middle of town. Durham is a very green city – there are lots of very relaxing walks by the river with fantastic views and it’s quite easy to find some cute farm animals if you go for a wander.

What do I enjoy most about Chemistry?

I enjoy all of what I do in the chemistry department. I particularly like physical chemistry (the maths-y, physics-y bits, especially the lecture series that deal with the weird and wonderful world of quantum mechanics) and the labs. I’ve just recently finished a mini lab project where I got to play (safely) with lasers. This was one of the highlights of the year so far as I was able to do a bit of research into a specific technique, design my own experiment and carry it out over a 9-hour period. Sadly it didn’t work, but I enjoyed the independence of doing the research and designing / trying to carry out the experiment.

Discover more

Our Department of Chemistry provides a thriving centre of scientific activity for teaching and world-leading research in the chemical sciences. Ranked 5th in the UK in The Guardian University Guide 2022, we deliver high-quality teaching and offer the opportunity for students to be actively involved in a department with an international reputation for cutting-edge science. 

Feeling inspired? Visit our Chemistry webpages to learn more about our postgraduate and undergraduate programmes. 

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Louis Jones

Hi! I’m Louis, a third year natural sciences student from Josephine Butler college studying Chemistry and Physics. Outside of my degree, I’ve done running, rowing and Olympic lifting and I am slowly eating my way through every restaurant in Durham!

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