The journey of developing skills

Hello chemicals,

I had mentioned in many of my previous posts (that I no longer remember) that this summer I was (and am) focussing on developing new skills. I didn’t have any proper internship/ work experience organised for this summer. I have been volunteering and hopefully will be doing some work experience with lawyers next month.

Clearly none of this is relevant to any of the career fields I am considering or with chemistry but I am still doing all this. The sole reason is to develop skills. These experiences are bound to help me with personal development, taking initiative, communication and give me insights into the various sectors therefore broaden my horizon in terms of what is out there in the big beautiful world.

I have been lately thinking about all the skills I have or rather I don’t have. The trouble is my mind-set or rather my disappointment since I don’t seem to be born with any of the skills out there; which might be why they’re skills and not talents. So what skills are valued out there?

Verbal communication: I wasn’t like this at school but since starting university I have become very quiet. I must say I am beginning to enjoy this silence or rather this peace in my life but where everyone says your confidence skyrockets at university, mine seems to be going downhill. But then again, even though it feels like my confidence levels are dropping, I am beginning to reach out a lot more. I just find that I don’t engage in conversations that aren’t necessarily going to benefit me. Having said this, I am a whole different person when I am around my own group of friends. It is just with new people I take longer than normal to get comfortable but then surely it’s a good thing because then you know you’re building genuine, strong relationships with people who you become friends with. With regards to public speaking, as much as I fret that my nerves kick in, I have discovered that I am not the only one. Others have also said that they have similar problems therefore perhaps I should stop exaggerating my inability to do public speaking and stop seeing it as something that’ll prevent me from achieving absolutely everything in life.

Written communication: I read an article only yesterday on LinkedIn about how so many graduates coming out of university seem to lack written communication skills due to this mindset that they only need to be able to write emails, presentations and other little things and don’t need to bother much about longer pieces of writing. It has been highlighted as bad and I, deep down, feel so pleased with myself that I realised this much earlier in life and have therefore been working on developing my writing skills for a while. Besides writings blogs, I have recent begun writing for the Warwick newspaper – The Boar. I have already submitted two articles and am working on my third one for the Science and Tech section. I also hope to get involved with writing for the Boar Books section. Writing blogs is one thing. Writing articles is another where they take a lot more thought, structure, drafting and here I find myself a lot more on my toes since this is something new that I am trying.

What other skills are out there? Well, as a chemist, I am expected to be thorough, accurate, one who pays attention to detail, who has strong numerical and analytical skills, good with being methodological with her approach and this list goes on. The challenge isn’t always not having these skills or not knowing how to develop the skills. Another issue is sometimes failing to understand yourself or what you do enough to be able to realise that you’re actually using these skills in life all the time. You just don’t think about them or perhaps don’t see your work as if you’re exercising a skill. Such is the complexity of skills!

Another thing about continuing to develop is as you practice a skill, you become better at it which means you become more fussy about how you want things, you become better at distinguishing the better from just the good, and this could lead to chaos; ironically.

For example, I have had this blog for about three years now. Still, I have had numerous names, web-links, site designs, post formats, colours, and this list goes on. This is because everyday you learn something new and you implement it into your work but then you see the old and it makes you really cringe. I have been going over my old tweets in search of a particular tweet I needed for one of my other blogs and seeing how lame my tweets used to be only like a year ago really makes me want to sit down and delete them all. I know this is vacation season but I still don’t have the time to do this tedious task so I have decided to refrain from ever looking back at those tweets. It isn’t the everyday teenage guilt about having posted content I shouldn’t have. It is the little things like the hashtags I’ve used, the number of hashtags, the frequency of my tweets, the blogs I’ve shared (that have now been deleted), just the message in those 140 characters really makes me want to delete it all and start it all over again as I have done with my blog about three times now.

Such is this wonderful journey of developing skills. As you begin to become better, you want to disconnect yourself from the good-only content because you don’t want anyone to see you as just good. You are now better and that’s how you want to be seen by people. Regardless, such is life. You learn through making mistakes. You understand what good is after you’ve been through the “bad”.

Even if at some point in the future, I become a really good public speaker, I’ll probably always think back to those times when my hands shook in front of people whilst I spoke . Even if one day, I am an admired scientist, people might still dig around my old tweets and ask how I could possibly be so bad at designing science research posters (for now, I’ve done the job for you; see my recent Nuffield post for that poster tweet!).

Until next time

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

How was July?

Hello Chemicals,

Five days into August and finally I’ve managed to overcome the procrastination to sit down and reflect on the last month. So, how was July? July was good.

I’ve been volunteering a lot with my local library helping out with the Summer Reading Challenge. Today, there’s an event in the library after which I’ll probably write my first blog post for the Hillingdon Libraries blog.

I have my cover letter due next Monday for my mentor and have to write it up this weekend as well as setting some objectives so we can work towards the goals and hopefully achieve them.

I am also writing for The Boar – Warwick newspaper. I have written one article (that hasn’t yet been published but the editors are working on it) and am in the process of writing up my next one. This is so exciting since one of my potential career paths is science communication therefore getting experience writing science press releases is amazing! Another reason that makes me proud I chose Warwick.

I have also decided to write some careers blogs for my role as the Careers and Skills representative that will be published in the Autumn term. I am still in the process of writing them. They’re super exciting since this is another seriously formal platform where I’ll get to use my experience to share with others what I’ve learnt.

I was the Blogger of the July month with Warwick student blogging 🎉. I cannot describe how happy I am to finish my year with such an achievement. Can’t believe a random hobby I began of blogging will be cherished by Warwick in this manner! I wrote three blogs for Warwick in July: how to write personal statements, how to choose your five universities, and one addressing any concerns students might have with regards to fitting in with the Warwick community. So happy that my blogs had an impact and were found useful by people!

My CV is looking good especially since I’ve managed to fit it on a single page. Now only worried about my cover letters really. I have been going a bit easy on research regarding placements but hopefully August is the month to recharge myself and tackle it. If I can get majority of my work done over summer, it’d be easier during year 2 as I’ll have more time to focus on work than placement preparation etc.

Finally, I just can’t believe July is gone and we’re into August! Two months and I’ll be back on campus. I’ve also been accepted for the Warwick Sprint Programme therefore I start a week earlier than others (which if I’m not mistaken is now Warwick week 0).

I now look forward to reading the recent issue of Chemistry World, work on the articles and blogs I’ve committed to, research into placements, continue to volunteer with the library, and birthday is coming. I’m a little weird, I really hope everyone forgets about it because otherwise my family will make it a super big thing that I’m 19 and I really don’t like crowds and attention and just want to spend it reading or something with a mug of coffee.

Some twitter highlights for this month:

Jivan is my Bhangra buddy where after watching her vlog I promised her that I’ll read up on Classics over summer. Like, what the hell have I done. Don’t want to go in front of her without having read about the illiad and the odyssey but like how do you pronounce these words again?

Anyway, those are my favourite ones for this month last month. I’ll blog soon!

Enjoy Reacting,

The Chemicalist




My Nuffied Project – August 2015

Hello Chemicals,

In August 2015, I did a Nuffield Project in the Perinatal Imaging Department at St Thomas’ Hospital in Lambeth, London.

My research was focused on looking at the differences between the development of two regions of the brain – the hippocampal cingulum and Inferior Longitudinal Fasciculus – in preterm and term babies.

This was a four-week project. I was taught how to code and did programming as part of my project (which was computer based) to extract the specific tracts from pre-recorded MRI scans of infants. I was reading literature to simultaneously teach myself the elements of neuroscience my research was focussed on. I also taught myself to do data analysis.

I was also writing up my report as I was doing my project itself. This meant that I could get my supervisors to read over it (one was a doctor and the other was both a professor and a doctor! #inspiring). They were both very helpful and gave me ideas about how to best structure it, re-write anything to make it more concise, or explained the science if I didn’t understand anything.

During my project, I got the opportunity to speak to many PhD students who were also working in the department. They were very helpful with UCAS advice (I was expecting my AS results) and I got to learn about life of PhD scientists (and they were very positive about it!).

I also networked with some other Nuffield Foundation students (well, three) who were doing their project in the same hospital where I am still in touch with one of them on Facebook. It was nice having them during lunch time discussing our projects and university and career plans. I also got to see them at the Nuffield Celebration event where we presented our posters.

The Nuffield Celebration event was attended by myself and other Nuffield students who successfully completed their projects. We had to design a poster for the event and were also given our certificates there. I found some old tweets to hopefully be able to explain to you how unfamiliar I was with scientific posters at the time therefore it doesn’t look perfect but certainly I sat down with my sister and we tried our best and here it is – well, not really. First the tweet explaining how hard it was:

and now the poster:

After the successful completion, I decided to submit my project for the Gold CREST award to the British Science Association. For this I needed my report to be a little better and one of my supervisors gave me very detailed advice on how I could improve it. Her support and advice was very helpful and I achieved my CREST award! I did, of course, send them an email thanking both my supervisors for their continued support where I now have one of them on LinkedIn and the other on Facebook. Thanks to social media, you never lose touch with people.

Here is my award:

My CREST Gold award is something I am still proud of and will always be.

A state-school student with a passion for chemistry and the sciences who didn’t achieve the best AS results that summer had her placement achievements holding her together so she was able to gather the courage to apply to university and is today studying chemistry at Warwick.

Grades aren’t all there is to achievements/ learning/ experience. My placement gave me a real taste of research (something I might wish to pursue a career in), an understanding of what life of a researcher looks like, an experience to reflect on, and set me apart from others who at that age might not have had the science-y experience of researching in a focused area, writing a scientific paper, creating a science poster and getting the awards.

I read on LinkedIn that the best way to document an experience is to blog about it so I’ve done it – I’ve written my blog.

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

Volunteering: post 3

This is for the third day that I attended the Volunteering session (yesterday). Myself and my manager went to out local school to tell students and parents about the SRC and how it all works etc and also sign up students that were interested and had their library cards with them.

It was mad. It began with the school ending and about 50 kids ran up to us simply asking “Miss! What’s this?! What’s that?!” I was baffled and so was my supervisor. It was also making sure I was offering acceptable customer service, making sure none of the gifts went missing as well as any of the books (which meant that I had to frequently turn around to make sure nobody was touching the books).

Many parents and kids seemed interested. Some of them didn’t have their library cards with them therefore we requested them to visit their local Hillingdon library to sign up. Some parents joined the library there and then (for the first time!) and then signed their kids up for the challenge which, I must say, was a disappointment as it didn’t seem like many parents took their kids to the library even though the library services are offered free of charge for the people and to get involved more with their local communities.

We stayed at school from around 2pm clock to 3:45 and signed up around 15 students.

Then we got back to the library around 4 where I stayed until 5pm to assist with the challenge in the library.

Overall, it was a fun experience and I am so glad that I signed up to do this. I genuinely feel so happy that I am making a difference to my local community, getting involved with children as well as learning so many new skills (which seems to be boosting my confidence too).

Volunteering: post 2

Today was fun. I felt a little more confident and had more children who were willing to talk to me about the challenge. It was lovely to have both parents and children smiling and joking around.

I worked very fast as well today. I managed to finishing folding all the collector cards and have got all the sticker sets ready for the children for all their six visits. Some parents were super nice and asked me for my name and others said bye to me before going. Some children were also happy about the brochures and because I spoke to them about the challenge.

My manager spoke to me about the opportunity to blog about my experiences and since I already blog as a student blogger for Warwick as well as on my personal WordPress blog, I couldn’t have been more excited about another activity that I am request to get involved with.

Tomorrow I’ll be going to the local school with the library team speaking to children about the challenge as well as signing up the ones interested in the challenge.

Overall, it is going as a very positive experience and I really look forward to developing more skills as part of my volunteering activities.

Just a little attempt at the skills I think I am beginning to develop: customer service, organisation, communication, and I cannot think of more. But this is certainly seeming exciting and I can’t wait to see what else I’ll get to do!

Volunteering: post 1

Today I went to the library for my volunteering for the first day. I knew most members of the staff already since I am an active member and user of my local library. It was then helping with the admin related work to do with the reading challenge (theme: Animal Agents). I folded up the collection cards that children use to keep track of the books they read as well as preparing the stickers that will be given out to them.

After having spent a year on campus amongst adults – students and professionals – the influx of children was overwhelming at first. It can be quite challenging to work with children therefore it is a relief that they are always accompanied with their parents. It felt quite different since I hadn’t seen this many children all together for a year now but definitely this is going to turn out to be a positive experience since I am now finding myself working with people of a different age group. This would help improve my ability to adapt to different situations and I really hope to speak to more children regarding the benefits of reading and hopefully make some reading buddies!

Finally, the best part – I am actually feeling like I make a difference. This is because often when I am doing my little preparations for the challenge, the library staff gets on with their other work that they have got to do. In this way, I can assist them in managing this summer challenge whilst they are trying to look after the entire library and deal with the users.

Concerns regarding skills

Hello Chemicals,

Oh my days, I’ve been so busy procrastinating and doing miscellaneous stuff! I’ll post something about this month at the end of this month. Right now, I just want to write out my super big concern these days.

I am looking for placements to do for my third year and have therefore been attending many events related to recruitment and personal development and the one word that is mentioned in every session is – Confidence.

I am an introvert and shy and where I might have the skills and the knowledge required for the job, I do not have the confidence to showcase them. This means that I can single-handedly screw up interviews because I am the sort of person that has to think before speaking otherwise what comes out of my mouth is super irrelevant, super indecipherable and frankly, super dumb.

I have been advised that it is okay to think for about 30-45 seconds when asked a question in an interview and if you prefer, take a notepad with you. This is such a relief! I am so looking forward to trying out this strategy.

And then don’t even get me started on doing public speaking. Like I can barely handle a one-to-one conversation let alone speaking in front of a group. The last time I tried this, I literally had to say a sentence but the moment I saw everyone’s eyes on me, I muddled up the whole sentence and Lord knows what I uttered. This is another issue and I have been researching into how to best get practice for public speaking. I have read so many articles about how to ace it and they all seem to give the same advice but public speaking is a skill which has to be practiced and it doesn’t feel like a ‘formula’ about how to do it would make it happen.

Yeah, so confidence, interviews, public speaking, talking, –– hard! Not easy for this introvert anyway.

And if a potential employer is reading this, please don’t hold anything against me. It is just a personality type and I hope to find the right employer for myself who will understand this and will give me the time to develop the skills that I require and understand that not everyone is born with the confidence and those extrovert-people skills.

Until I bump into you, dear future employer,

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

How was June?

Hello chemicals,

June was a mix. I had my last exam on the 5th of June and it was awful. It was basically a tragedy but only last week I learnt that I managed to somehow pass it.

Results for my first year were alright. I managed a 2:1 (67%) but otherwise read the whole breakdown of my results here. I am quite happy considering how tragic A levels were and am just glad that I have been able to somewhat redeem myself.

June was spent recovering from exam stress and just catching up on sleep mainly. I did do a lot of work as well. Like, I applied to be a mentor next year to the next year’s chemists and failed miserably. I was also going to apply for an internship with patent lawyers but had misread the application deadline so turned out it had already passed. Sad but to be honest I think I need my summer to really just recover right now. I am not going to do too much work since I think I need a break and considering my results, I have earned it well (I think).

I also applied to be the Careers and Skills Representative for the Warwick Chemistry department and I managed to secure that! I am definitely looking forward to my new role since I already really like to share opportunities available with other people. Currently, I share relevant links etc using my personal Twitter as well as my position as a Warwick student blogger but from October onwards, I’ll be the admin of the Facebook page (woohoo!!) and then take it from there.

I also attended a Warwick chemistry careers day and a day for those interested in placements. I am still in the process of trying to get myself to sit down and research. All I know is that I want to do something for the environment – atmospheric/ green chemistry is what I have set my eyes on. I respect the field of pharmaceuticals but not as interested (as yet). I wouldn’t say that I have ruled it out completely but it isn’t sounding as fascinating as yet. Oils and plastics – I am not saying that they aren’t important. I just feel like doing something for the planet! Some little will do but just something.

I also wrote a poem on thermodynamics! Did you read it? Here it is. I absolutely love it even though it could have been written better but then thermo could have been nicer, innit!

These days, I’m, just relaxing. From next week onwards, I begin volunteering with my local library with the Summer Reading Challenge. This year’s theme is animal agents and I have decided to help out! Clearly I love libraries too much therefore decided to find something at my local one now that the Warwick library is so far ☹️

I am also beginning to miss Bhangra a lot. I really want to go back to the classes. I mean, the last time I did it was like in April. But there is still a long three-month wait before I get anywhere near doing the Panjab move or rocking the ‘Do you know‘ beats. Panjabi society is still deciding about their soc positions. If you read my previous posts, you’d know I applied to be their IT and Communications officer even though I never showed my face to them last year at any of their events. I wonder how this will work out but to be honest, even I am feeling a bit unsure about the role now. I mean, will I have to go to their socials as well? Because, like, they begin when I go to bed. You know what I mean? I don’t think I’d be disappointed whatever the outcome but I hope they’ll be content to find that I do my job properly if I get the position rather than expecting me to socialise in the middle of the night.

Anyway, that was a quick look back at June. These are my thoughts so far and a lot more but I don’t want to write a book so I’ll stop here. I shall soon be posting a review of Middlemarch which I successfully completed on 30th June and have begun ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’ now.

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

I finished my first year!!!

Hello Chemicals,

Yes, exams ended and I came home straight after finishing them. It is hot and I therefore feel very lazy, tired and not in the mood for anything these days. So, my first year at Warwick ended. It was a weird end, the last exam (not the best) and then that was it. I came home, caught up on my sleep and then it has been spending time with family, Twitter, reading, blogs (for Warwick), reading the news, and looking for new opportunities ever since.

I just cannot believe that my first year has ended. It feels like only yesterday when I was going to the many meet-and-greets with societies, trying to remember the building locations, various lecture halls, Tesco location and people’s names. I didn’t, strictly speaking, spend a whole year at Warwick – a ten week term was followed by a 4/5 week vacation and then term 3 wasn’t even ten weeks since I finished on June 5th. Nevertheless, I find that I have built a bond with Warwick, the university, the place, the people, the shops and everything.

Warwick is a campus university and, it can be somewhat argued, in the middle of nowhere. Sad for the social butterflies but I absolutely love the place. As an introvert, I imagine Warwick as being a bubble and I encapsulated in that bubble feeling guarded, safe, sounds like an oxymoron but free, and living in my own world. The morning walk to lecture halls – if they were 9AMs then with my flask filled with coffee – to the Oculus or chemistry building or the maths building or Woods Scawen. Rainy days were particularly relaxing with my large umbrella so I am only focussed on my path and the rain and the occasional view of the sun, enjoying the wind whilst ensuring not to get my glasses wet.

The university in terms of teaching, facilities, resources and support has been remarkable. I studied at a state school (and they have their own struggles associated with them) but I somehow got my place at Warwick (that I feel very lucky about) and those struggles are now gone. I have access to the best teaching, the best resources, the best academics, the best everthing – more than what I could have asked for. It is all dependent on how much effort I put in now and this somewhat stresses me out but also seems fair at the same time.

I developed a special bond with the library this year. I am a book lover and spending hours in the library was something I had begun to dream about much before university started. Warwick library consists of five floors! I started off with the first floor. I thought the rest of the floors had no study space and only had bookshelves – I was really naive. Then, one day I felt the need to find silent study space and asked the receptionist:

“Is there anywhere I could find study space?”,

“Yes, we have four more floors.” – I was dead inside. “Do you require somewhere silent?”

“Yes preferably, please”

“The second floor extension is good. I understand it can be quite confusing”.

How kind are the librarians to call my (arguably) silliness “confusion” but ah well, I’m telling you I was naive.

Loved the extension area. Then one of my newly discovered study buddies invited me to join her on the second floor of the library one day (she studies economics by the way). I fell in love with the floor there and then and spent the rest of my second term on the second floor of the library working on tutorials, lecture capture catch-ups, note-taking, extra reading, revising, lab report writing, and making even more library buddies! Thinking back to my year, I must say, I became close friends with most of the Warwick people I know due to the library. Those conversations dicussing end of term plans, exam stress, revision strategies, and just how things are working out were what led me to become close to people. Term 3 was focussed revision and I therefore ascended to the third floor, then jumped straight to the fifth and then came down on the fourth to spend the rest of my exam revision period there. There also, I made friends and saw many people from societies that I hadn’t otherwise seen since there aren’t many society events in term 3 due to exams. One of my study buddies became especially wonderful. We’d go to the cafe together for coffee/ tea breaks and meet up in the library every day to check up on how things are going for us. I feel like we developed a special bond where because she is a second year, she has also become a sort of mentor to me. This is also with some other second year students I met with the Bhangra soc – I still find myself messaging some of them to ask for things because they can give you such good advice!

I applied to be on the exec for the Panjabi society for next year. I submitted my manifesto a few hours before the deadline. It sounds a bit daunting especially since I didn’t get involved with them this year but I really enjoyed being part of the Panjabi community on campus. Whether I get the place or not, there are so many societies at Warwick, I can surely have a lot of fun next year exactly like this year.

I am beginning to look at new societies to join next year and other activities to get involved with. But for now, just trying to enjoy my vacations. I’ll be going to campus next week a couple of times due to events in the chemistry department regarding placements and on the 29th, it is the long awaited results day.

This blog has become really long so I’ll stop now!

In this hot weather,

Enjoy reacting!

The Chemicalist


A post before exams

Hello chemicals,

Oops! I didn’t blog last month and didn’t even realise until like a minute ago. I have simply been too busy lately preparing for exams to do anything else other than check Twitter and write poetry and procrastinate. But I have uninstalled Facebook from my phone so distractions are significantly reduced, although not eliminated!

So, I have three exams coming up for each of the three sections in chemistry. Each exam is three hours long and they are nicely spread out with a week’s gap in between.

Nowadays, I spend most of my time making notes. Yes, indeed I haven’t quite had the time to do exam questions yet but I have got it all planned and am hopeful that things will go the way I want them to.

So, just because I am really proud, I’ll share how I make my notes: I use lecture notes as a template/ base and then read multiple books in the library to add to my notes to make them complete and then write them out in neat in an organised form. This counts as both revision and reading around the subject. Although it takes time, it doesn’t too much and I enjoy the process and find it easier to absorb the information much more effectively in this manner.

Labs are now finished and I’m having lectures Monday to Friday. I am still waiting for my final lab report score. I secured a mid first for both my first two reports but with this one, I doubt it. I had to rush this one due to exam revision and don’t think I managed to really write it up properly. I also feel like I could have researched more if I had managed my time more effectively but then exams are important too.

Reflecting back on my year, I must say that I really enjoyed my time here at Warwick. I am not a very social person but I certainly have loved my first year learning chemistry, enjoying Bhangra, Sikh society events, student blogging, meeting new people (including students and staff), developing skills, and simply developing as a person.

This year has, however, also involved £9000 worth of student debt, away from home, away from London, cooking and eating whatever I managed to somehow make, finding myself surrounded by responsibilities not only in academic but personal life as well. This inspires me even more to excel in my exams so that at least I can prove to myself that it was all worth it in the end.

There is stress. There are concerns. I am worried about the outcome, naturally, but I am trying to not let it affect the process. Now, it’s time to make some notes on polymer chemistry.

I’ll probably blog next after exams now. By the way, they finish on 5th June 😆 Until then

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist