As a Chemistry student in my final year, I am undertaking my “Part II”. I have no lectures, exams or tutorials this year and have been able to specialise in what I find most interesting. For most chemists at Oxford the fourth year is their favourite – this is definitely true for me! I particularly enjoy the 9-5 timetable, meaning I have a productive day then my evenings and weekends are completely free!
Mid-way through third year, chemists start thinking about which aspects of Chemistry they find most interesting – be it Organic, Inorganic, Physical, Biology or even History! At this time there is the opportunity to research different groups and speak to current students and heads of labs before selecting your choice of group.
My project is in Prof. Darren Dixon’s group on Organic synthesis. The group does varied work, from total synthesis to methodology, with an emphasis on enantioselective catalysis. I have loved specialising this year – I am able to concentrate my time on something I find very interesting and therefore motivation is never an issue! I have been working on catalysing an intramolecular Diels-Alder reaction, and although not everything has gone perfectly, overcoming the challenges has been an enjoyable part of my year. I have learnt to be more independent and have quickly become confident in designing and conducting my own experiments.
I am really enjoying the lab environment, everyone is very friendly and always willing to help or give advice. At first, the idea of carrying out original research and using the specialist equipment was daunting however each part ii has an assigned supervisor in the lab who helps with any difficulties. We have weekly group meetings where we present our progress and it’s a chance for Darren and the other group members to give advice and discuss everyone’s projects. I immediately felt like part of the team and was accepted as an equal into the group. In addition, we often have tea breaks and pub trips together.
This year has consolidated my desire to continue research and study for a PhD in Chemistry after graduating. The Oxford course offers an important and rare year dedicated to full-time research, an amazing opportunity to carry out independent and original research in a world-leading department.
By Eve Carter (4th Year Chemist - formerly of Stanwell School, near Cardiff)
Read more about Chemistry at Brasenose College