A double dose of science

Today was my second talk for IntoUniversity. I’ve spoken before in SAF, our medical school (Sir Alexander Flemming) but today I was in the RSM (Royal School of Mines). It’s quite an honour to be able to move so easily between all of these archictectural gems with outreach and sci comm gigs, and I (genuinely) feel super lucky to be able to do it.

It’s quite a tough gig: a big room of about 35 students, who don’t really want to be there. What’s great about doing outreach over the summer or easter holidays is that the students have generally chosen to attend (unless they have tiger moms)- but this is different. The talk was also in the afternoon. I was talking about that with my mom, who has done so many science talks over the passed 40 years she’s basically my go-to for all communication advice (I still make her slides though ;)). Mom says she never does afternoon talks- you are too tired, the attendees are too tired.. but boy, when it works is it rewarding!

The school had come from East Ham, which is near West Ham, and nowhere near Ham. This is a complete mystery and one that the students weren’t aware of. Both East and West Ham are in the borough of Newham, whereas Ham is in South-West London near Teddington and my beloved Seb at NPL. It’s one of those questions that’s very hard to google “Why is Ham so far from West Ham and East Ham?” and comes back with a lot of West Ham FC transfer news.

I spoke about the usual- Jess, Imperial, plastic electronics, physics, how they could get in. I spoke for a whole hour, which meant I was super parched and had to keep having micro sips from a bottle of water that was frankly too big. It’s pretty intense when your mid sci-comm and have to take a cheeky sip, because the whole room goes very silent and I find it super embarrassing. I think i’ve done so many science talks now I’ve learnt to keep up energy levels, and sound less like i’m about to cry at every available opportunity. There were great questions too:

How can electrons be promoted into the 2p orbital from the 2s orbital? Where does the energy come from?

carbon bonding in organics

carbon bonding in organic semiconductors

This is actually a great question, and one I used to get super stuck on. For organic semiconductors to work they need to be able to conduct electricity, and to conduct electricity they need free delocalised (homeless) electrons that can move around the molecules and carry electronic charges. The energy gap is super small between s and p, and an electron promoted from the 2s to the empty 2p gives 4 unpaired electrons. When these electrons that are unpaired make bonds afterwards, they release SO MUCH energy that it more than compensates for that bit at the beginning. I guess I also find it hard to suspend the disbelief that there could be that first jump without the energy released from bond making, but sometimes you have to..

What BMAT scores does Imperial require?

I didn’t know this off-hand, but we have spoken since. My brother just finished his medical degree and my parents are a (world-famous) psychiatrist and neurologist, so I’m actually quite a good person to talk to about medicine. Imperial has a very prestigious medical school which is an amazing place to study because it has 5 central London teaching hospitals and an awful lot of money and equipment. Their requirements are listed online, but you need AAAB (apparently, although definitely aim higher- it is super competitive).

BMAT cut-off scores are calculated each year, as a result of ranked candidate BMAT scores versus number of expected interview sessions. As a result, the absolute BMAT cut-off changes each year. However, the BMAT cut-off scores from previous admissions cycles may be used as a guide.
For 2015 entry, the minimum scores required were:

  • a score of 4.3 in section 1
  • a score of 4.4 in section 2
  • a score of 2.3 and grade B in section 3v

My advice to the budding medic was as follows (it might be useful of other medical students):

My (now incredibly successful and important brother) did a course at Kaplan, http://www.kaptest.co.uk/ukcat/course, which was super expensive but made him pass with about two days practise. He applied to Peninsula.
Have you thought about how you want to learn? There is a few differences (check them out here: http://www.getintomedicine.co.uk/medical-school-choices.php, my brother did ‘PBL’).
This was a great site for him: http://www.newmediamedicine.com
And this is a good read: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Trust-Me-Im-Junior-Doctor/dp/0340962054

Should I do physics and maths or theoretical physics?

There is a Maths course with Applied Mathematics/ Mathematical Physics (G1F3, BSc Mathematics with Applied Mathematics/Mathematical Physics), but no specific physics and maths course at IC.  I advised theoretical physics, because the professors who teach it are insanely intelligent physics academics and the course content is phenomenally interesting (my own bias) but it’s definitely worth looking online to think about the course structure and module options. Theoretical Physics includes Complexity and Networks, Group Theory, Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, Advanced Particle Physics, Quantum Field Theory, Quantum Information, Quantum Theory of Matter, General Relativity and Unification. These are basically all of the courses that make you a classical physicist- definitely the ones I pretend that I aced why I’m talking to my dad.

I’m really happy to do these talks for Imperial College and IntoUniversity, and got some great e-mails from interested students that evening.


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