By the way, it is common and normal to like chemistry and not like labs – OurWarwick
OurWarwick

By the way, it is common and normal to like chemistry and not like labs

During my time at Warwick, I have heard many people say how they don’t enjoy labs. I’m not sure if they felt like this before they started their degree or whether undergraduate labs had the opposite effect and they fell out of love. I didn’t feel like this or do. I came to university looking forward to labs. There have been days when I have felt too tired to enjoy labs but this can also be said about lectures. Otherwise, I am the sloth in labs enjoying my time in my (shared) fume hood (when I know what I’m doing).   You can’t escape labs. It is an integral part of a chemistry degree and a skill you develop as you work towards your degree. With pretty much every job, thing and person, there is bound to be at least one thing that you don’t like and you have to put up with. Let it be labs if you don’t enjoy them. But certainly, in my experience seeing other people who feel they don’t enjoy labs, it is clear that it is perfectly possible to not like labs and still be able to enjoy your degree otherwise.   It was after coming to university that I found out that labs not only involve white coats and safety goggles but indeed sitting in front of a computer screen with a mug of coffee also counts as a lab. Computational chemistry is quite a thing and we have academics who conduct research into computational things and also teach second, third and fourth year modules. As part of our teaching labs, we also do computer based labs using software like Matlab or other stuff (you can really tell I’m not a computational one).   Computational chemistry comes under physical chemistry but physical chemistry labs in general can also be very different. At an undergraduate level, they haven’t been radically different but we have had labs on not only Matlab software but also lasers and some others were more similar to the normal ones as in there were solvents so we had some liquids to work with. I have seen two research labs of physical chemists and one was where the Professor said they don’t wear lab coats. Interestingly in his lab, the concept is that you’re not trying to protect yourself from the experiment but instead trying to protect your product from yourself therefore personal protective equipment (PPE) is not so necessary a thing. I also saw a lab with literally lasers everywhere. Just in general, if any of you like to work with lasers or big machines entirely wrapped in aluminium foil, then chemistry is the degree for you.   So, to sum up, if you like chemistry but don’t like labs, you can still do chemistry. You can enjoy studying it and see your time in labs as things you must do to pass. And I do think this is the case with all students; everyone has that one thing they don’t like although I can’t think of a common one right now other than referencing (which I enjoy).   In terms of careers, it is quite a common thing in chemistry to hear people say that they want to directly use their degree without being in the lab. This means research/ industrial R&D departments are not an option. Teaching and science communication are literally the first two that come to my mind. I attended a webinar by the Royal Society of Chemistry that said that science communication is first science and then communication. It is much easier to teach a scientist how to write articles than to teach a writer science. Teaching is about passing on that passion for the subject onto the next generation that led you to study chemistry at a degree level. Of course there will be lab sessions but they’ll be less frequent and of course much shorter as well.   So, to sum up, whether you prefer rocking your stained lab coat or sitting in front of a computer screen, or indeed neither, chemistry is still for you. There are career options available to you after you complete your degree even if you don’t like labs and you will definitely not be alone in your year group to dislike labs if you do come and join us bond-lovers.

 

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