Ben White

Department of Chemistry

BSc Chemistry

Ben White

What subjects did you study at A-level?

A2 levels in Chemistry, Biology and Geography. AS Physics

How did you decide which degree course to take?

I actually didn't like studying chemistry at all at the start of AS level. I found myself struggling with some of the mathematical based questions and the whole subject in general felt alien. I got along well with biology because I could picture processes happening, whilst chemistry just felt like somebody was making it up as they went along. In the final summer AS exams something clicked, I realised that the subject actually did make sense once I took the time to learn and understand it properly. After that initial hurdle I went from despising to actually enjoying the subject. My teacher was enthusiastic and took a small group of us to events such as the Royal Society of Chemistry open days which helped to show me the huge array of fields I could work in after university and made chemistry an obvious choice.

Why did you choose Sheffield?

Another event that my teacher took us to was the “Sheffield Schools Laboratory”, set up by the chemistry department to give school children a taste of what it is like to work in a real lab. I actually still help out with some of the activities there now! We visited in Year 12, made paracetamol and had the chance to have a look round the whole department. I was really impressed by how friendly it all seemed and it became the standard that I would compare other universities against when visiting. The location helped too – Sheffield is right next to the Peak district where I had gone on numerous climbing and mountain biking trips. A combination of a great department and a great location won me over!

What advice would you give to people about to choose a university course?

Make sure you have a proper browse through the prospectus and find out exactly what the course entails. Don’t sign up to anything without making sure it’s exactly what you want to do. Also take a proper look round the department – new and expensive kit looks good on an open day but make sure it’s not just this that wins you over, try and find out the kind of support you’ll get as this plays a much bigger part in your course than playing with some shiny new toys. Finally pick a location that you like. With a huge number of universities to choose from and plenty of time for extracurricular activities it’s important to live somewhere that you enjoy.

Which part of your course have you enjoyed most so far?

I love the practical side of chemistry, we spend two days a week in the labs which means I get plenty of hands on time learning new techniques and synthesising compounds. The experiments are usually related to current studies so it’s also a great way to put the things you have just learned into practice.

What are your plans for the future?

Recent modules in chemistry have got me really interested in green energy and developing environmentally friendly solutions to produce electricity – a field that is getting more and more important as existing energy supplies run out. However I love the job I have at the moment working in the Schools Laboratory so I’m hoping to find a way to carry on promoting science and engineering to the younger generation!

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