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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

School Winner: What is Chemistry?

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    05 Nov

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    Elephants rarely get cancer: less than 5% of captive elephants die of cancer, compared to 20% of humans. Elephant genomes have at least 20 copies of the tumour suppressor, p53, which may explain their low cancer rates relative to humans, who have only one copy. 

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    Winning Entry William Hulme's Grammar SchoolTwo Winning Entries - WGS & WHGS5C Larissa portrait croppedAt school they give you an overview. But of course, it doesn't end there. At college you get more info, at University you get the whole lot. But in life and throughout history, everything to know about chemistry is still endless. I mean, it took scientists until 1897 to realise that atoms weren't the smallest things in existence. With this in mind, imagine how many more theories are waiting to be realised and acknowledged. Asking questions about chemistry is truly the best way to find out what ‘chemistry’ actually is.

    At one point I said to my mum "Are we made up of cells or of atoms?". As it turns out we're made of both! At least I managed to get a clearer vision of chemistry. In fact it made me realise that it seems almost impossible to imagine the size of an atom. Honestly, how can something be THAT small? And even then, how could you possibly imagine the size of sub-atomic particles!

    My Mum is a great inspiration to me when it comes to science. You see, she did the whole University life. She got her Masters Degree in Physics at the University of Manchester. Let me also add that she often spoke to the Nobel prize winners for the discovery of graphene! Yep, my Mum is amazing. And even after 4 years of studying science, she says she's not all that good at it. A couple of years ago I joined my Mum in her workplace in order to gain work experience. I was surrounded by mass spectrometers and large machines that I had absolutely no idea how to use, or even what they did for that matter! Over the week I learnt the different parts of the mass spectrometer and even more about the company. What fascinated me was the function of each part and each object in a mass spectrometer. I even took part in the construction of one section called a 'quad'. To me, what I built just looked like a weirdly shaped perfume bottle... but apparently it was an essential part to the mass spectrometer. Having actually built the quad, I understood more about how it works. For example, the rods are used to move the ions through the mass spectrometer using forces of attraction. (Or at least I think so, I can't remember everything from 2 years ago!) Another interesting thing I learnt was how mass spectrometers are adapted for more practical uses. One example is that of the I-knife (a.k.a. intelligent knife). This piece of technology can be used in medicinal ways: surgeons for cancer patients will use the I-knife as it will be able to identify cancer cells against healthy cells. Thus allowing the surgeon to only remove cancer cells during the procedure. Isn't that soo amazing?? As a matter of fact there was actually  a documentary covering the use of mass spectrometers in this way, I felt smart watching it as I already learnt about it during my work experience J.

    To return to the point, "What is Chemistry?" I guess all we can answer to that is the different knowledge surrounding Chemistry and even science altogether! Chemistry can be considered the study of different topics such as mass spectrometers. Although, to be more imaginative, one could say that chemistry is the exploration into the unknown to discover and push the boundaries of knowledge. And that is why I love it.

    Larissa Aravantinou
    William Hulme's Grammar School
    My name is Larissa Aravantinou and there’s not a lot to know about me. Ever since I was younger, I have admired my Mum’s passion for science and particularly physics, although I was pretty bad at physics myself. Instead my mother inspired me to find something I love to study, and I found chemistry. Undoubtedly this is one of my favourite subjects just because I simply enjoy learning everything there is to know about it. I am studying Chemistry as an A level in the school that I have been in for the past 7 years and I absolutely love it. I hope to carry on studying chemistry later in life and eventually follow my mother’s footsteps in finding a scientific career path. :D :D