Exam prep

Hello chemicals,

Just finished compiling a list of topics that I need to revise for this year’s summative examinations and I must admit, some of the topics I didn’t even remember that I had studied. This is really bad since I have only 12 weeks left until exams!!!

I have planned a few things that I am going to discuss because I have realised that I never actually look at my scribbles on OneNote. The list is big but seems doable and it certainly is. The main objective is to really understand the chemistry behind these topics and be able to apply it in the exam. Since it is no longer a mark scheme sort of thing and you are credited for showing an understanding even if you fail to use the exact terminology as in the mark scheme, I am going to try to really be able to talk to the elements and compounds and then talk about them in the exam.

When I look at the list as a whole, I find it really overwhelming therefore it is really important to stay calm and pace myself so that I don’t burn out before exams. I remember for A levels I worked really hard but sort of gave up a few days before the exam because I had been revising for so long. This did not quite turn out to be healthy therefore I have got to make sure I do not repeat this mistake.

I am beginning to lose my motivation to attend lectures a little (a lot). I will try to go to as many as I can but I feel like it is now time that I take control of my degree and revise the way that works for me.

Society events can wait for next year now. The only thing that is still on is Bhangra classes because they are classes and because I enjoy them so it is a nice break from revision. It is also good exercise because otherwise I’ll just end up sitting at my desk the whole day and then have a really bad back ache as I always do. This became a serious issue during my A level exams but Bhangra will hopefully help me avoid that. Today’s class was really productive since I, for the first time, was actually sweating!!! Sounds odd but this is good because it means that I actually put some energy in!

I think I got about three weeks of labs and a total of about 4/5 labs for the year. Now this is where I’m getting a little emotional. Labs are where you have the most colourful times not just literally but metaphorically as well but next year, apparently labs are on Mondays and Tuesdays. Is this supposed to be a good thing? I’m not too sure yet. I shall find out if/ when I make it to second year.

I have lately been spending a lot of time in the library and it really helps to see everyone else working and motivates me to get on with my work. In my room, I just end up listening to my recently compiled playlist of Panjabi music (thanks to Bhangra soc for this too) and it doesn’t really help that I am an avid day-dreamer. Obviously, I cannot day-dream in the library right? Like, obviously..

Other than this, well, work is beginning to make more sense now. But I was expecting this. I tend to understand concepts over time as opposed to when they’re taught. I also find that my note-taking skills have improved because now I know what I know and what I don’t and I can judge for myself what is key.

Other than this, life is not bad. My rotiyan are now good circles. I wouldn’t say perfect circles but still relatively good and I am beginning to use my time more productively and I am almost always working. Recently started my Refrain poem but it requires A LOT of drafting however I am not feeling very creative nowadays therefore the process is taking long but hopfully it’ll be finished before Easter (although I am in no hurry because I want to make it really good then declare it finished). Until then,

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

And it all begins

Hello chemicals,

Not sure what work to do right now so I’ll just type and try to figure it out at the same time. This post is just to reflect upon the hectic week 1 of term 2.

Last week was one of the busiest with a lot going on. I arrived back on campus Sunday evening. Monday was my first mock — for inorganic chemistry. It was an absolute nightmare. I realised I decided to focus on the difficult topics and completely ignored the relatively simpl ones. Consequently, I ended up messing up everything because the difficult topics never made sense and the “easy” ones I had not revised.

Then comes Tuesday. I thought I should revise loads for the organic mock on Wednesday however Tuesdays tend to be my busiest days of the week so didn’t get lots done but I did quickly revise the “easy” stuff that did come up as well but I still feel like I messed it up anyway. I went to the Kirtan Jam with the Sikh Society as always (this time also with the particular purpose of begging the Almighty Lord for mercy).

Wednesday I sat my organic mock which was certainly not as bad as inorganic but still bad (if that makes sense 😁). Wednesday was when I also submitted my lab report. It was after the mock that evening. I didn’t quite manage to complete the error analysis (well, I didn’t know how to for the exponent and the internet failed me). I also feel like the abstract could have been improved a little. It was very basic and straightforward and certainly not one that would lure the reader into reading further, therefore unfit for purpose, but I had had enough of the report. I really didn’t want to see it anymore.

Then life hit Thursday. It was a research lab looking at reductive amination. The compulsory part of the experiment went smooth and I was left with some beautiful crystals. However, this was the imine that I had produced. I wanted to complete the experiment but messed up the second part so had to just end it. With the data I have got, I could still write a report on this if I wanted to but I’ve decided to do the other organic experiment which is coming up in a few weeks and then choose the one I like more. The other one is ‘Design your own work-up’ which doesn’t frankly sound too much fun but I’ll give it a go. I am so glad I have my physical chemistry lab report out of the way because anything involving ‘physical chemistry’ is bound to be difficult for me otherwise. Even though the reaction didn’t go as planned, I had a nice evening attending one of the Sikh society talks on Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

Friday was the last day and I just wanted it to end smoothly and rapidly. That did not happen. The lab experiment was forming an interhalogen compound and then doing a volumetric analysis by preparing a standard solution of thiosulfate. It started off well when we had a Prof from the lab demonstrating and who was also dealing with the chlorine gas. Afterwards, it failed; miserably. Towards the end, the solution did not work even though I finished at four (which is the usual time but quite often, labs finish early). Then ended Friday and time for my usual trip to go home for the weekend and then come back Sunday afternoon with a lot of food so here I am.

Still haven’t thought of what to do. No tutorial work. Don’t want to start on this week’s prelab even though the lab is going to be so much fun! This week’s experiment is based on playing around with the Henderson-Hasselbach equation — one of my favourite equations because it reminds me of my AS chemistry teacher who was awesome. He taught me acids and bases in such depth and with such enthusiasm that I have never failed to admire them ever since.

So, this week, sadly the Kirtan Jam is cancelled because the Chaplaincy is booked for another event. However, hopefully, we’ll have our first Bhangra class of the term unless everyone from the exec has decided to go to the Panjabi society event. If so, then there is nothing on this week. It is just me and chemistry. There is also a Sikh society social but I don’t go off campus and I have banned socials because I cannot deal with the guilt later when I flop.

So overall, as I described to one of my friends— mocks were a disaster — but I got my lab report done which was good. It is so funny how I started university aiming for a first this year. By the end of term 1, I lowered my desires to a 2:1 and now, I just want to pass. 40% would be fabulous, just not 39%, please.

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

A quick glance at 2016

Hello chemicals,

I wrote this post once before and then deleted it simply because it didn’t carry much weight. And even now, I am not too sure what I am going to write.

This post is supposed to be reflecting upon what I have learnt this year. But I cannot think of much right now; partly because the only thing I can think of these days is my lab report and partly because I have run out of topics to reflect upon.

I have already made posts reflecting upon my summer, what I learnt in 18 years, and reflecting upon university life as well.

Other thoughts that tend to hit my mind are too abstract for me to be able to word them. This year went too quick but I am sure you’d say that about every year, wouldn’t you? I remember last year spending the night of 31st December 2016 reading the book “When a tree shook Delhi” learning about the details of the 1984 and familiarizing myself with the well-organised and thoroughly planned genocide of Sikhs – that painful memory shared by Sikhs worldwide – and the struggle of the entire Sikh community to get justice that we are still fighting for, today.

This and past week has been focussed on remembering the Sikh history and our rich heritage where today was the day when the two younger sons of our Tenth Guru were bricked alive for refusing to abandon their faith. But this is not how my tenth Guru saw the incident. According to Him, He married His sons to death. Such was my Guru and such is Sikhism.

Looking back at what happened this year, I can see how much I have changed as a person. My laugh is still the same – loud and weird – but I can still feel the change in me. I have developed so much as a person. I have become a lot more independent, a lot more confident about what life throws at me, a lot more quiet at the same time and have become more of an introvert where nothing tends to scare me more than talking to people, but I still do manage to find a few friendly faces in the crowd and then the rest find me themselves. Indeed, it leaves me amazed how nice the people are in this world. Their nice personality is only a conversation away from you, believe me!

I made friends at uni (yay!) with other chemists and people from societies. I have been strongly involved with the Sikh society attending most of their events. Also, Bhangra society is really friendly. I still struggle with the Bhangra but most of the times attend my classes to just meet the people from the Soc.

This year has been quite tough considering the world of politics and economics as well. The EU referendum. The state of the Labour party. The new PM. Trump. ISIS. All the sorts of news you wouldn’t want to hear of have been making the headlines.

So, what good did this year bring? I got accepted at Warwick. I met so many new people but what is more important is like-minded people – people who love chemistry as much as I do. People who adore Sikhism as much as I do. People who love being Panjabi and Brown as much as I do. And just people who restore your faith in humanity.

I read a lot of books this year. I am super proud of my decision to switch to classics because they are so enriching. Even the tears that a book might bring are often a result of self-awakening and a sudden realisation of a simple truths that we fail to acknowledge due to our busy lifestyles.

I want to write more before we enter the world of 2017 but mum is calling. Nothing changes as a result of the new year other than the date itself but then again, it is all a matter of perception. For some, it might be a whole different change.

Let’s all welcome this change in a number or in the world (whichever you prefer) together and,

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

End of term 1

Hello chemicals,

Another post to reflect upon university life (after about 22/23 days). So how’s university life going? Well, now I’m at home (for four weeks). I finished at 11am today so came home after that.

Currently just writing this post after which I shall turn to the thermodynamics group task that I need to submit. Hopefully it won’t be too bad since thermodynamics is now beginning to make sense but I still struggle with enthalpy.

This is where the four-week Christmas vacation kicks in! As much as I miss Warwick and the people, I cannot wait to begin my marathon study sessions. I have planned my vacation to ensure I head back to Warwick in January feeling content and prepared for the mocks.

I am not sure if I mentioned in any of my earlier posts but I am officially a Warwick student blogger!!! I have, so far, made two posts: one discussing how to deal with tough lectures (can’t believe this was my first post) and another one discussing my vacation plans. You can find the posts here: http://studentblogs.warwick.ac.uk/ along with blog posts by other students sharing their experiences.

This Christmas, I am particularly looking forward to writing my lab reports. I have written two such reports before as well: one for the Nuffield Foundation placement, and another for my extended project, so I feel rather confident (but nervous at the same time). I am hoping to get two lab reports done. One on qualitative ion analysis – an inorganic chemistry experiment that I discussed in one of my earlier posts. The other one on the lab I did yesterday.

Yesterday’s lab was the Harcourt Essen reaction. It was HARD. The experiment didn’t involve any exciting colours changes so no beautiful pictures this time however a lot of emphasis was placed on precision. This was annoying since I am a very rough chemist. More like cooking in the kitchen lol (and we all know I can’t cook so you can imagine the consequences). Also, we had to ensure there was no contamination but this is something I deal with quite well. I used a micropipette as well which I think was quite cool.

But now, moving onto the slightly embarrassing side of the whole experiment, I failed my pre-lab three times therefore had to effectively beg the chemistry department to give me another chance (just had to explain to them that the term ‘physical chemistry’ scares me so I messed up). That was a difficult beginning but this isn’t where it all ended.

In the lab, I had to do the experiment FIVE TIMES to get the data. Here’s why:

1st attempt: I messed it all up. Instead of adding thiosulfate to my solution, I added peroxide.

2nd attempt: I used the micropipette incorrectly. There was more air in the pipette than thiosulfate.

3rd attempt: I ended the experiment sooner than I should have. I had even washed all my glassware only to later find that I didn’t have sufficient data.

4th attempt: I was supposed to add peroxide to my solution. I added acid.

5th attempt: I did it all correct. I was supposed to record 15 readings but I recorded 16 just to annoy the experiment that had annoyed me the whole day.

I was in the lab the whole day. Didn’t even have my lunch because I was determined to get my data. Luckily I had a nice demonstrator (as always) who didn’t get angry at me for messing it all up.

And that’s how labs ended for me. But I loved my time in the lab that day where after doing it about three times, even my demonstrator complimented me by calling me an ‘expert’. That made me laugh! And in the end, I realised this:

Well, I hope you have a lovely Christmas and a productive vacation!

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

Applications for 2017 Social Mobility Foundation Programmes Now Open

The Social Mobility Foundation supports ambitious young people from less-privileged backgrounds to access top universities and careers. They run completely free of charge programmes featuring mentoring, internships with top companies, university application support, as well as professional development and skills workshops for high achieving young people across the UK. The charity provides support in 11 professional sectors, including Law, Medicine and Politics. Students apply to join the programmes in Year 12 (England and Wales), Year 13 (Northern Ireland) and S5 (Scotland). Support continues from here and throughout university to help young people obtain graduate jobs.

The SMF is also running free residential internship programmes for students interested in Accountancy, Banking & Finance, Engineering, Law and Medicine (the Medicine residential is open to applications from English students only). Students undertake a one-two week internship with the host organisation and take part in fun evening and weekend activities. They also receive advice sessions, opportunities to build professional skills and a dedicated mentor before and after the internship. 

Applications are now open. 

The closing date is 9am, Monday 19th December 2016. For more information, please visit www.socialmobility.org.uk   

Just wanted to say that I personally benefitted ever so much from this programme. Would thoroughly recommend it to students!

The Mill on the Floss – a review

Hello chemicals,

This posts contains spoilers.

Finally, I managed to finish The Mill on the Floss two nights ago. It was a book that really left me in agony. Not because it was sad or because I didn’t enjoy the ending of the book but because this book is actually an introduction to the harsh realities of life. It was not a fairy-tale sort of book where the female protagonist was some graceful, delicate darling. She was truly a warrior. She defeated her worldly desires and renounced whatever/ whoever tried to seduce her or distract her from remaining true to herself and her values.

I tried to write a review of this book but I just cannot get my thoughts together. There is simply so much that this book teaches me that I can easily write a book on the book and what it taught me. However, it is, I believe, critical that I note down the main points so I may look back at them later on in life and refer to them when I need to.

The battle between love and duty is a common one, at least, I think. Like other emotions, love is also one that is difficult to define. You get many definitions, many interpretations. I have never been able to understand it myself. But if love is what Maggie showed it to be, then I do admire the beauty of this emotion.

Maggie’s love wasn’t selfish. She loved wholeheartedly but she never went blind. She remembered her duties, her commitments and her integrity before anything else. For this, she happily renounced her happiness, her life, her dreams, her desires.

Maggie loved two men the most in her life. This was her father and her brother. She renounced everything just to keep them happy and in the end, she got the reward for her perseverance and wisdom. In the end, her own brother felt a pang of humiliation when he realised what his sister had done for him. She got to hear ‘Magsie’ for the final time before they died together – Maggie got to die with her brother. I don’t think anything else would have pleased her more.

Often books you read emphasise on the love that exists between two people. The Mill on the Floss was a different one – it discussed family life. It discussed the extent to which a woman goes to simply keep her family together. It discussed the extent to which a woman goes for her integrity, her values and to keep her word.

The letter that Maggie received from Philip truly teared my heart apart. Indeed, you get two types of lovers in this world: you get those that are ready to give their life up for you, and then you get those that would take someone’s life for you. The beauty of Philip’s love is that he decided to not take his life, he decided to live with Maggie’s memories. That takes a lot more courage than to simply take your life. Surely, a moment’s pain that results in permanent numbness is nowhere near as agonising as going through that same pain every moment and spending your life with someone’s memories.

To me, the big take home message is that duty takes precedence over love. Not just love for someone but love for worldly desires. Perhaps the reason why this message is so close to my heart is because it overlaps so strongly with what Sikhism teaches you. Hurting others’ feelings, breaking their heart, breaking their trust only poisons your life, your love. Maggie lived most of her life in agony. I felt it in every word of the book, in every page, every chapter. But she died with dignity. She died with superiority. Her brother always thought his sister was unreliable, that she was unfaithful but she still remained true to him. She highly esteemed him, trusted in him, loved him and eventually, proved to him that she was always right.

The true reward was given to Maggie for her struggles.

This book really left me worried about the complexities of life. I was left panicking about whether life really is this difficult, whether it really tests you this harshly. No book ever left me crying this much. Never had I hugged a book with such affection. This one was truly special.

Finally, to just reflect on the book – it is absolutely amazing. I really enjoyed the wisdom of the narrator although I always thought that the narrator will turn out to be some character from the book, in the end. This was however not the case. This book goes very slowly. What I mean is that there aren’t lots of events happening. Often there is a lot of focus on little events therefore you really get to live the book. I personally never felt like a lot had happened when I had finished over 70% of the book. What I instead felt was how much the characters had developed. I was often amazed to learn how in a short period of time, their lives changed and their dispositions changed but everything else seemed to have stayed the same and indeed this is what happens in real life as well. In society, we change but the society doesn’t change. Collectively, people don’t change. Life doesn’t stop. Just, individual characters develop and change. Right?

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist


My first set of labs

Hello chemicals,

Sitting at home rather tired and with a mild headache but really I cannot just sit and do nothing. I have to be doing something therefore thought I should write about how labs are going.

One of the most fascinating things about chemistry is labs. The wide variety of reactions that we get to do, the kind of sophisticated equipment that we manage to get our hands on. I’ve already had the chance to use an IR spectrometer, a rotary evaporator, a centrifuge, and something perhaps not too advanced but still cool – magnetic stirrers.

This week Thursday and Friday, I had my first set of labs that were not intro labs hence more exciting because no longer do I feel like a rookie in labs now! Yesterday, the lab went a little wrong hence I ended my day with a heavy heart feeling bad about how the experiment didn’t work out. As a result, when I was preparing for my today’s lab, I was very concerned thinking that my second lab might also be ruined likewise.

Today’s lab was about the qualitative analysis of ions. I looked at a set of cations and anions. This was fairly straightforward but very exciting. The various different colours that I formed and how bizarre some of the colour changes were! This was absolutely great and I really knew what I was doing hence enjoyed my time.

Later, the second part of the lab involved some detective work. I was given two solutions – one consisting a mixture of three cations and another, a mixture of three anions. I was required to use the knowledge I acquired from my previous experiments to identify these set of ions. With the cations, I had a flowchart to follow but not with anions. It was really fun trying to solve the mystery and I had a nice demonstrator as well.

Evidently, things might not always go well in labs but the banter is always there. The way I add 6 drops instead of 5 and then justify to myself that the word “drops” is ambiguous. My greed for glass pipettes goes unnoticed by everyone which is a relief although I am never guilty about it. The way I was grabbing lots of them at once was hilarious today. But that was just because I didn’t want to contaminate anything and I didn’t want to keep going to grab them from the table that was two fume cupboards away from me.

I loved my time today. Also, I used the centrifuge a number of times today. It is amazing to learn how A level biology made a centrifuge sound like some large machine like NMR however when I first saw it today, I was left gobsmacked looking at the size of it. It was literally on the table and I was using it as if I was using the fridge or something.

I can see that I’m actually beginning to learn how to multi-task as well as plan ahead, thanks to labs. I have two different things up and running and I can manage the two properly which feels great because I am not otherwise the breed capable of multitasking. You might know that with protocols, you cannot really afford to read a line at a time and do the experiments. It is important to read ahead and just be aware of what is coming up. I tend to do a virtual experiment in my head before I conduct it in real (lol, I got a chemistry lab, well supplied with all chemicals, in my head too). This just makes life easier in labs and I rarely have moments of surprise or panic.

And the final thing before I end this post: the best thing about the end of intro labs is that we no longer work in pairs. I know that same old argument about collaboration in science and working together but trust me, when you have a control-freak lab partner who wants to do everything and you are yourself a control-freak, there are more collisions than there should be. There is always a race going on. Whoever take the chemical gets to pour it, and then the use of various other chemical equipment is always a race. Now, I get to do it all on my own. There is no race, no rush, no concerns about missing out on even a single mole of fun. It all belongs to me. It is all mine. I work in my own fume hood and I often am super lost in my work.

I enjoy the reactions, the labs, my life and you, as always –

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist.