Spotlight on Chemistry
How long have you been teaching Chemistry at Blackheath High School?
I have been teaching Chemistry at Blackheath High School for 11 years. Two years as Head of Chemistry and nine years as Head of Science.
Can you tell me about your background?
I was born here in London but my heritage is Turkish Cypriot. I have always enjoyed the Sciences even from a young age and was always fascinated at how they explain the way the world around us works. After my GCSE, I moved naturally into my A-levels and it was surprisingly a close call between Economic and Chemistry to read at university. I chose Chemistry in the end as I enjoyed the practical element more than just book study.
I undertook my undergraduate degree in pure Chemistry at the University of Kent at Canterbury and continued to my PhD as I was still fascinated by particular aspects of materials, specifically polymers. The PhD was simultaneously the most enjoyable and challenging experience of my academic life, I recommend it to any student who is really passionate about their subject. It is an opportunity to do amazing independent research, driven solely by your own ideas. During my time as a postgraduate I was required to teach undergraduates, and this is where my interest in teaching sparked. Within a year or so of completing my PhD I began teacher training and have never looked back.
What is covered in Chemistry? What are your students working on at the moment?
Chemistry fundamentally is the science of materials. It is about gases, liquids and solids; how they interact and how they may be made. In fact it is the study of all materials and is vital to every aspect of your lives. From the moment you are born and throughout your life you are surrounded by Chemistry; in the air you breathe, the food you eat and the clothes you wear. Think about plastics, pesticides and drugs; fireworks, fuels and explosives. Chemistry is, literally, everywhere.
Chemistry covers the fundamentals from the atomic, electronic and bonding structures of all substances. To specific areas of reactions, energy changes, rate, equilibrium, organic materials and use of the earth’s resources.
Currently The Year 13 students are studying Entropy and Gibbs free energy. This shows how the universe tends towards disorder and how you can calculate the likely hood of a reaction actually occurring spontaneously.
Year 12 are looking at trends in the periodic table and linking this to bonding and structure
Year 11 groups are covering the topic of the use of earth’s resources. This looks at purification of water, sustainability, Life cycle assessment and the elements of reduce, reuse and recycling of materials. One Year 11 group is looking at the % yield and atom economy of reactions, which is all about how efficient reactions are with resources.
Is it a popular choice of subject?
The subject has always been very popular over my whole time at the school. We usually have about a third of Year 12 and Year 13 doing the subject.
What are the benefits of studying this subject?
Chemistry and the chemical sciences open up a world of possibilities and expand your choices. No matter how the world changes in the 21st century, Chemistry will always be at the centre of science and at the heart of life. Training in chemistry or the chemical sciences gives you the skills needed for a wide range of careers, which it opens up to you. It is very analytical, logical and involves lots of problem solving. It gives you a keen sense of the truthfulness of data presented to you. There are lots of abstract concepts which really challenge students to think. It also teaches students how to research information and present that in an appropriate way.
What are the benefits of studying Chemistry at Blackheath High School? What is unique about Chemistry here?
The benefits of the subject here at Blackheath High School are.
- Excellent teaching staff who are very experienced
- Tutorial style teaching with discussion
- Small class sizes
- Lots of support
- Lots of hands on skills.
- Ability to run societies on personal interests supported by the department
Is there a particular aspect of the course that students tend to enjoy?
Students obviously enjoy the practical elements of the course most of all. They also enjoy the topic of organic Chemistry.