Chemistry – For life as we know it

Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Chemistry – For life as we know it

Brian Doggett, Worth School’s Head of Science, explains why chemistry is such a valuable subject for career prospects today.

The syllabus we teach in schools today owes its origins to discoveries made in 1789 by the great French chemist Antoine Lavoisier (shortly before he was beheaded during the French Revolution). Lavoisier introduced the concept of chemical elements as the basic building blocks of all matter. His findings influenced much of what we understand today and chemistry is one of the most fascinating subjects to study.

The human body requires only 24 of about 90 naturally occurring elements to function properly. Oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium and phosphorus are the main components of our bodies; the other elements are only present in very small quantities (less than one per cent by mass). It is remarkable that so few elements, combining in subtly different ways, can result in the essentially infinite variety of human life.

Many of the substances around us – which we usually take for granted – do not exist naturally, but are instead made by chemical processes, discovered and developed by chemists.

Polythene, PVA (glue), paracetamol, PVC (vinyl) and ibuprofen are just a few well-known examples of such compounds. The computer screen on which you are reading this, as well as the keyboard and the components within, are man-made substances. Most of the dyes and pigments used to make paints, fabrics, inks, etc, as well as the medicines used to treat illness are likewise the products of chemistry.

Poisons, explosives, radioactive elements, new structural materials such as carbon fibres and graphene, polymers, and elements such as rare earths used in mobile phones… the chemist’s remit is endless.

No wonder then that over the last few years have seen a burgeoning of interest in Chemistry at Advanced Level at Worth, with at least two sets of students studying the subject each year. Many of our students achieve high grades and proceed to top Universities to further their studies.

Worth School’s Science Department has recently adopted the International GCSE (IGCSE) course, which gives a thorough grounding for those who will not be taking the subject further, whilst also instilling a sound understanding of the fundamental concepts for those moving on to study Chemistry in the Sixth Form.

A Level and The International Baccalaureate (IB) courses include modern and relevant techniques as well as covering the essential theory. At both levels the courses contain a considerable amount of practical work.

worth school teacher
Worth School’s Head of Science, Brian Doggett.

Over the past few years, our chemists have gone on to study Medicine, Pharmacy, Pharmacology, Biology, Natural Science and, of course, Chemistry itself at Universities throughout Britain. Chemistry degrees are looked upon favourably by a range of employers, such as Accountancy and Law Firms, as well being appropriate for more directly relevant careers.

For more information on Worth School, this video provides an introduction to the school.

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