Choosing my optional modules
Third year is my first year of picking optional modules. I was grateful in second year that I didn’t have to pick any modules and everything was core because first year modules were all introductory and at the time I enjoyed pretty much everything; only some things were more difficult than others but I never thought I disliked any of the topics.
Second year was very colourful with lots of different modules. It was the year of embracing physical chemistry for me and certainly the content was a lot more interesting than in first year. In organic chemistry as well, in addition to studying a lot of mechanisms, we started to study the concepts behind the mechanisms in terms of how the Frontier Molecular Orbital theory dictates mechanisms, studying the fundamental concepts that drive these reactions as well as looking at the concept of chirality and mirror images, and conformations and a lot more. Here your spatial awareness is really put to the test and if anything, it is practice that enables you to be able to to imagine rotating certain bonds and seeing how the molecule would look afterwards.
With third year, came the time of choosing. Different people may feel differently but I’ve always felt like organic chemistry has a lot more content than any other topic. In term 3 of my second year, the department got us to fill in the preliminary optional modules of our choice to get an idea of the number of people picking all the modules and due to it being exam season and me in a constant panic mode, there was a tendency to just blame everything on organic chemistry (bless). So, I went for Molecular Dynamics, Polymers and Energy.
I had started off this academic year planning to overcat and do the Bioinorganic and Coordination Chemistry module as an extra module because you get to learn about the f-block but after a conversation with my personal tutor, I felt like this wasn’t the best idea. Last year I did my economics module and I loved it but it is undeniable that it did take up a lot of my time that I could have otherwise spent on chemistry. So, this year I thought it best to focus on doing well in the modules I have chosen and try to do well in March.
First five weeks of term 1 were core modules and it is both amazing and scary to think we did 30 CATS worth of work in those five weeks. To put this into perspective, 1 CATS usually requires about 10 hours of extra study (you can do the maths x). In week 6, optional module lectures started and initially I was planning to sob around a little thinking I won’t get to see the f-block but then I decided to be a bit adventurous and see what other modules are like, name bioinorganic and bioorganic.
The thing with the bioinorganic module is that it is all very medicinal. Chemistry plays a pivotal part in pharma but I am more into the environment. Therefore, that initial regret of missing out on bioinorganic was somewhat eliminated after attending the lecture. I attended the bioorganic module lecture only to see what I was escaping rather than assessing the opportunity cost of not studying it but sitting in that lecture I had a bit of an epiphany.
I have always loved natural products and besides with this ever increasing human population, pesticides and fertilizers are the way forward when it comes to feeding humanity. So, this module perhaps would give me greater insight into the potency of natural products. So far, however, the focus has been on antibiotics but as someone who loves the environment, 15 CATS on just admiring the wonders of nature feels like a great idea to me. Many of my lecturers say that nature is the best chemist and pretty much perfect at everything therefore we as chemists in labs get our inspiration from nature and try to replicate, with the same degree of precision and specificity, what she does in our labs, if not outperform.
Anyway, basically I switched from MD to bioorganic chemistry. I went from studying a hard-core physical chemistry module to a hard-core organic chemistry module and nothing could have been as radical as this and I am very happy.
There is a sense of purpose when I attend my lectures. Energy is focussed around solid state materials and I find it very interesting and we’re studying photovoltaics these days. I am really enjoying Polymers and if you’re thinking “what about single-use plastics?”, then, well, it is the use of the polymers that is flawed, not the material. Finally, bioorganic chemistry, for reasons that I have explained above, is great.
This all happened very last minute but I believe I made the right decision. Last year, studying the environmental economics module was a last minute decision that I absolutely loved. I’m hoping things will work out this time as well. I do struggle with organic chemistry and this is a fact I cannot run away from. Last year my exam results for statistical mechanics were relatively good so I proved to myself that I can do physical chemistry. I guess this year I need to prove to myself the same for organic chemistry.
Have fun learning!