UCAS Listings: Second choice, not second best

Student profile: Helen Eley, studying Chemistry at the University of Warwick

Chemistry wasn't the initial choice of Helen Eley, from Bristol, who began her university career studying maths.

"I took my A-levels in Maths, Chemistry and Biology, and got three As. I'd always intended to do maths, because that was the subject I'd really enjoyed at A-level," she says.

"But maths at university was completely different. It wasn't what I was expecting at all, and I felt that I didn't fit in."

Helen was taking her course at the University of Warwick, where, she says, her tutors were very understanding when she went to them and said she wanted to change degrees.

"I found that I was really missing doing science," she says. "maths had always been my best subject at school, but when I thought about it, I wanted to have a science-based job. So was maths the answer?"

After talking to lots of other students and her tutors, Helen decided to move onto the straight chemistry option at Warwick.

"Immediately I felt much happier," she says. "The people were much more interesting, and the course itself is much more specialised. Also, it feels much more like a department, and there is much more contact with tutors."

She says: "This year we've covered the basic foundation of chemistry, building on from the A-level course. It's split into two areas - medicinal and environmental chemistry. This covers the physical side of chemistry, and the inorganic and organic. We're looking at all different aspects of materials, with quantities and measurements."

What she most enjoys about the course is the five hours of lab work each week. "This is when chemistry really comes alive," she says. "We get to do the experiments which are related to the lectures we've had, and we get to see how things work.

"I have to say that some of the lectures aren't amazingly exciting, because chemistry is quite a difficult subject to teach if you can't physically demonstrate what you're talking about. I like to see it happen in the lab, rather than being in lectures all the time."

Despite her A-grades at A-level, Helen does find some parts of the course hard at times. "Some bits of it are difficult to understand, but there are lots of people you can go to and ask.

"I find the physical side of chemistry the hardest, as this has the closest links with physics.

"But this course is designed to cater for all abilities, and there is an attempt to cover all sorts of areas."

She admits that chemistry does have the reputation of being rather boring.

"There does seem to be a stigma attached to it," she says. "People think that we wander round in white lab coats all the time doing nutty experiments. There's also a perception that chemistry is very difficult.

"Admittedly you do have to be scientifically-inclined, but if you think about it, chemistry is a vital part of our daily life. We have to understand the properties of things, and all the medical breakthroughs and things like that are due to chemistry. It does have very close links to the real world, although lots of people think it doesn't.

"I've found other people on the course to be great - there's lots of normal student life. I live in halls, and this is a campus university so there's always masses to do and lots of fun to be had!"

Helen says there is little difference in the workload between her course and the arts subjects. "Students taking English, for example, have essays to write - we have lab reports. Our work is basically understanding the course and what we do in the lab, and we usually get several days to write up what we've discovered."

"There is lots of time off, and you don't have to stay in while everyone else is going out! People think that the sciences are much harder work, but I don't think it's true. The workload is about the same."

The coursework is arranged with a major exam at the end of each year, and exams in January.

Helen says after her degree she would like to go into medical research. "I'm concentrating more on the medicinal chemistry, and at the moment I would like to go on and take the four-year Masters course, rather than the three-year BSc.

You really need a Masters, and possibly even a PhD, if you want to get into research, but I'll have to see how I feel at the end of the three years. I'll see how it goes."

"But so far I'm loving my life here and the course. The university is like its own little village, and there's everything you need on site."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Senior Textiles / Fashion Technician

£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...

Recruitment Genius: Health and Social Care NVQ Assessor

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...

Recruitment Genius: ICT Infrastructure Manager

£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...

Recruitment Genius: Plumber

£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'