Students' Feedback

 
Kieran Paterson, St Catherine's College, 2nd Year MChem Chemistry

WORK PROJECTS
My organic chemistry project involved the synthesis of new heterocyclic compounds involving a furanring, mainly through Michael Addition between 2-methyl furan and an a,13-unsaturated ketone, although towards the end of the internship a similar mechanism involving cyclopropanes was also attempted. The project was in the optimisation stage so we were mainly testing the substrate scope and the best catalytic conditions. In the first two weeks our supervisor showed us how to separate fractions in a solution using column chromatography, search for procedures for a specific chemical reaction, and analyse an NMR spectrum of a product to confirm its structure and check its purity. After this we were given a bit more freedom and allowed to search for catalysts and procedures and then carry out the reactions ourselves. The internship proceeded like this until the end, with us performing reactions, noting down procedures in our lab book, separating and purifying the reaction mixture, analysing the product, and then writing conclusions. Our reporting skills were further honed by reading through recent research papers and giving a presentation on one roughly every other week.

DAILY LIFE
Upon arrival at Perm Airport we were picked up by a hired bus and delivered straight to our hostels. Over the next few days a host of English-speaking Russian volunteers showed us round the University campus and Perm, took us to banks and supermarkets, and generally helped us ease into Russian culture. During the first week we had Russian language classes from 9-10, after which we headed straight to the labs. Most days we were in labs from 10-6 with a lunch break at 1, although it varied between days. During our free time we generally socialised with the other Oxford interns and Russian volunteers, explored the city of Perm, and went out for meals at restaurants. On Saturdays we went on excursions organised by the University; these included local museums and a trip to the Kungur Ice Caves. We also went on a week-long rafting trip in the Ural Mountains at the start of August.

LASTING IMPRESSIONS
I had no idea what to expect from Russia before I came on this internship. I had been told to expect a 'massive culture shock', but I wasn't actually sure what the cultural differences would be. Having now spent two months in Russia I can honestly say I would return in a heartbeat. All the Russians I have met have been kind, selfless people. We had people approach us when they heard us speaking English and ask where we were from and why we were here. Admittedly we got a few stares but that was because foreigners are rare in Perm. A week deep in the Ural Mountains has shown me that Russia is an astonishingly beautiful country and deserves to be a much more popular tourist destination. The only reason I wouldn't currently live there is because I don't speak the language, which is deceptively easy to read once you understand the Russian alphabet. Two months in a lab has also confirmed that research is a potential career path for me. Overall this has been an excellent use of my summer and I would highly recommend this intern¬ship to future chemists.
 
 

Jack McLaren, Christ Church College, 2nd Year MChem Chemistry

WORK PROJECTS
I completed a number of very interesting work projects. The research group I joined focused on heterocyclic chemistry. Most of my time was spent optimising reaction conditions for a reaction. In addition, I spent some time working on projects in natural product synthesis and cyclopropane chemis-try. Each week we completed a presentation on re-cent scientific literature, and typically analysed the chemistry in recent literature twice a week. My su-pervisor proved to be a particularly interesting chap, on one occasion deciding the afternoon work would be given up to conduct an experiment collecting liquid argon. Perm State University organised cultural excursions at the weekends to a number of places of interest in Perm Krai. A particular highlight was the Kamensky Poetry Museum. The trip included colossal highlights such as sunbathing on the roof and swimming in the Karma River. We also attended the hub of the universe - a place we may all have different opinions of the exact location, but I have seen the light, it is in fact in a small Russian town called Kungur.

DAILY LIFE
I typically attended the lab at about 10.30, but the start time was highly variable depending on the cur-rent workload. We typically took an hour and a half for lunch, finishing at about 4.30 on average. Conveniently, the university placed us in accommodation a mere two minutes away from the chemistry department. After arriving I was pleased to find that Perm is the nightlife capital of the Urals. Hence, the evening was typically spent socialising with a solid group of 11 with all of the non-Physics interns. This lead to learning about the eclectic and legendary music genre that is Russian techno. The days were typically spent on the beach of the Karma River, sunbathing in the unbelievably hot weather. The temperature was typically in the high 20s or low 30s, although there was one week when it was in the mid-30s every day. I attended additional Russian lessons in the evenings. A highlight of the trip was when we appeared firstly on Russian regional news and then national news. Featuring on Channel 1 of Russian prime time TV was a new experience for me but one I took fully within my stride. Stardom awaits.

LASTING IMPRESSIONS
Having not particularly enjoyed the chemistry lab system in Oxford, I was initially apprehensive about spending the whole day in the lab. However, I was pleasantly surprised that work in the lab was manageable. Nevertheless, I didn't find research on a daily basis to be particularly fulfilling and would be less likely to go into a career in research. Hav¬ing read a lot in the media about Russian culture and people, the experience provided an interesting insight. I found Russian people to be exceptionally warm and welcoming after initial introductions. I will remember my time in Russia fondly.
 

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