Monday, January 24, 2011


Exams are over! Well the "proper" ones at least - we have an in-class test next week which counts towards 15% of that module. I need to do well in that because it is the course ran by the academic who I want to work with next summer.

The atmospheric exam went really well, there were only 2 questions (worth 7 out of 100 marks between them) that I was clueless about, purely because I just hadn't revised for them. There was maybe another 10 marks of questions that I knew about but hadn't revised a lot, other than that it went really well so I'll be disappointed if I get much less than 80%!

Now back to lectures (although don't have any tomorrow!), it sounds stupid, but I feel much happier knowing I have lectures. We're currently in a 5 week break from labs, doing a module called "literature and communication skills" in the mean time. There is a lot of work to be done for this module, but one of my group mates is away at the moment so can't start it until at least Wednesday. I expect I'll spend tomorrow doing coursework (also from the academic I want to work with in the summer), revision and relaxing as I had a busy weekend!.

Saturday was a 34 mile ride, a bit of a quicker pace than the previous weekend so I was definitely feeling it! Sunday should have been a nice trip with ramsoc to the peak district, but some dodgy admin meant we had no coach so I dragged myself out of bed for no reason - did mean I could go out for a carvery with the housemates, and talk more about the housing situation for next year. Should all be sorted by the end of the week.

Its now quite late (by my standards anyway) so I shan't ramble on. Off to bed soon. Updates soon.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Exam update: 1 down 1 to go!
The F12QCS exam went as well as could be expected. Along with many others I took the gamble (which didn't entirely pay off) that having had almost identical papers for the last 5 years, why would they change now?

This paper was much more mixed up than in previous years, and entirely new topics were asked about. I'm confident of a pass however I fear that, especially with this module being 100% based on the exam, I will not be close to the 70% that I need to get a first, in fact I think 60% (for a 2:1) is going to be optimistic. First week of February is results time so I'll find out soon enough, and if I haven't done as well as I'd have liked I've only got myself to blame!

Currently attempting to not make the same mistake for the atmospheric chemistry exam on Friday. Already I'm seeing topics I know I will avoid if they come up (once again there is a choice of 2 questions in the long answer section which is worth 50%), but I am still going to revise them just in case! Also going into this module with slightly more confidence, because, not only is the material that little bit easier to understand (even if there is lots of it to learn!), 25% of the mark is based upon the coursework, which I've already scored 68% in!. This means I need to do well to get my 70% goal, but does make a catastrophic failure that little bit less likely!

Haven't been out on the bike since Saturday, probably won't be until the next "proper" training ride this Saturday as I need to spend lots of time revising. But there have been some housing developments.

I was just awaiting confirmation from 3 potential new housemates and I was then going to phone the landlord and tell him that we'll keep the house. Something has now happened (I am apparently the only person in the house that has not been enlightened as to what, as usual!), but it means that someone who was leaving now wants to we've either got to tell someone that they can't come, or find a bigger house. Luckily we have found a house which seems to fit the bill. Its the same price as our current house, is finished to a higher standard and is closer to uni! The only issues are single beds (doesn't bother me), and a lack of cable internet. Hopefully we can find out about the internet and come to a decision sooner rather than later- would be a pity to lose the house!

Back to the formation of photochemical smog I'm afraid - will keep you updated with everything, as usual!

Saturday, January 15, 2011


OK so exams are drawing ever nearer. I've upped the pace on revision a bit, but I suspect not enough. Things are starting to click into place but, as soon as I look at past papers I'm forced into a state of panic!

So, why, you may ask I am I updating my blog when I have serious amounts of revision to be done? I think procrastination may be the answer to that question, although having just spent the last hour asleep I'm doing well at avoiding looking at all things spectroscopy!

Currently I am going over everything that we have learnt in F12QCS so that I can answer the section A questions. These are short answer questions, and should be easier to do, however they do not publish the section A questions from past papers so it is difficult to know what they might ask.

The long answer questions from the last 5 years are, on the hand, published for all students to see. Having studied these out of 4 questions (2 from each half of the module), we must answer 2 (1 from each half). And every year 1 question from each half has been almost identical. I am therefore going to put as many revision hours into these topics as possible (that said...they changed the format of the papers in our 1st year exams so that tactic did not pay off!). Again, why, you might ask, am I not just learning model answers for these?

The answer is simple. They do not publish answers, this is fine for 1 half of the module. Just about everything ever asked is well documented in our notes from the lectures. At the time many (I was not one of these people) questioned our lecturers abilities in teaching, but everyone is now thankful as for the spectroscopy half of our module all of our 8 hours of lecture notes seem to contain is some indecipherable equations, which may help gain a few marks but there is nothing at all to answer the more wordy questions, or most of the maths related questions either. So are we all destined to fail? I am going to say no and take confidence that the same professor has taught spectroscopy for many years and it doesn't like like fail rates for this module are any higher than the others so perhaps previous years of students have struggled right up until this stage, and suddenly, they've had a breakthrough. That's what I'm banking on anyway!

Training update: Did my first training ride this morning with my new riding buddy. Our easy 30 miler, turned into 40 miles, seemingly all into a head wind or a crosswind. I'm not going to lie, it was difficult, where my partner was riding along with ease and was almost frustrated by me I was only just managing to keep the pedals turning. Despite this, when I got home I felt good. Legs and lungs seem fine. In fact the only thing that seems to be suffering is my fingers. When 10 miles out and 10 miles back are in the city and the outskirts there is a lot of braking to be done, and road bike brakes definitely do not compare to the hydraulic discs on my mountain bike. And, being the "cheap" ones, I can't adjust the levers so my poor little fingers are having to stretch to reach them. I think a few upgrades are necessary when I get some spare money - I want new brakes (or at least levers) and I think the drivetrain needs some well as something a bit more lightweight (currently running Sora), I think a couple of teeth smaller up front might help me as I spend a lot of time in the big ring at the front, but too far up the block on the back than is probably healthy for the chain (but find that in these scenarios the small ring up front is just too small)!

Back out on the road next saturday. Bring on summer racing I think!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


T minus 6 days until the first exam, am I ready? most definitely, 100% not. have I done any work today? no, because I've packed everything!
Back up to Notts this evening. Then the plan is to spend as much time as possible for the 2 exams I've got.
Tuesday 4.30pm - Quantum Chemistry and Spectroscopy. Actually, the quantum half of the exam'll be alright if I can keep a grip on the maths (yes-Schrodinger does feature quite heavily in this!). The spectroscopy, well, I'm hoping it'll all click into place soon. It all seems to be relatively logical (even if I can't see the point of it!), I just can't grasp a lot of the principles. But there is still time!
Friday 4.30pm -Atmospheric Chemistry. If this was my only exam this session, I'd like to think I'd do amazingly in it, but what with the other module to work on I'm not so sure. This is almost 100% based on learning facts, with a few calculations and equations to keep it interesting. Unfortunately, much of the material is somewhat dry - for instance, we go into A LOT of detail about ozone chemistry.

Just as I have for the last week, I expect you won't be hearing from me until after exams as I need to focus. In-between all the panicked revision I've got to get in a couple of training rides (and I have to eat and sleep at some point too!).

As far as my topic of discussion I just want to mention science publicity. Horizon did a great program this week with Ben Miller talking about temperature. As with the series the BBC did on chemistry and the periodic table, I think it was done well. Enough information to keep people who are "in the know" interested, but there wasn't too much terminology etc. to stop people that we just curious from learning. In my opinion that sort of program is something we need more of, and perhaps an hour earlier in the day as well so that a few more youngsters might just watch it.

With the exception of the pharmaceutical energy science seems pretty bad press. After all science is responsible for things like nuclear weapons, poisons and making engines which produce greenhouse gases. Its seen as people working in labs, and for many it is assumed to be just too difficult.

So my take home message is get out there and do some science!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Happy new year!

I've got my new year off to a cracking start. I'm now a member of the Inverse racing team -

Very excited about this, and have started my training this morning. Just did an hour on the road, not particularly fast (although did get to 30mph+ at a few spots), just to get back into the swing of it really. Despite the cold weather I felt much better than expected, just got to come up with a proper training plan for here and when I'm back at uni to make sure I can be competitive this season!

I'm afraid I'm now going to have to have a government related rant, yes, you guessed it - about fuel duty and VAT! I can appreciate that they need to make money from somewhere otherwise we're in big trouble. But increasing VAT and fuel duty means we're still in big trouble. Many people on a low or even average income rely on cars to get to jobs which are just about paying enough to support their families, to visit ageing families and to generally get around. People can cut down on driving, but probably not enough to make up for the double hit thats hit in the last 4 days.

An extra 2.5% VAT is also going to hit hard when people need new clothes, and even harder when bigger purchases are needed. At least VAT doesn't have to be paid on food, or at least not yet anyway...