Chemistry

Head of Department: Mark Forth
 

Staff

Dr Lucy Dexter, Dr Dale Johnson, Ian Sanders, Clare Cohen, Dr Kate Brazier

The Chemistry Department consists of six specialist teachers, including two A Level examiners. We are ably supported by our technicians, Phil Anderson and Ann O'Bryan.

“Why, for example, should a group of simple, stable compounds of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen struggle for billions of years to organise themselves into a professor of chemistry? What's the motive?”

Robert M Pirsig

It is a cliché to say chemistry is everywhere but it really does touch our lives all the time. Every way we perceive the world is driven by chemical reactions - sight, taste, touch - all chemistry. The things we own and use, whether metallic or plastic or rock, exist because a chemist worked out how to make them, or devised the techniques to get them from the Earth. The television, the mobile phone, the computer screen on every electronic thing you own, the silicon chip that drives the computer too; the cosmetics and soaps that keep us clean, the fuel for our cars and the fuel to make our electrical energy, the drugs that keep us healthy; the munitions that kill people. No crime can be solved without the chemistry that calls itself forensic science. Chemistry drives the political situation in the Middle East. In fact, chemical advances are often directly responsible for most historical advances.

“Chemists are a strange class of mortals, impelled by an almost maniacal impulse to seek their pleasures amongst smoke and vapour, soot and flames, poisons and poverty, yet amongst all these evils I seem to live so sweetly that I would rather die than change places with the King of Persia.”

Johann Joachim Becher

A typical chemist is intuitive, aware and interested in the big picture as well as the minutia. In truth, chemists tend to be interested in everything! They are often the most practical of the scientists, as they need to be able to do experimental things with their hands, as well as think logically. They are actors, they love the chaos of the explosion and the order of the Periodic Table. They love not knowing all the answers, but they also love proposing reasons for the weirdness of the world. Most of all, a chemist needs to have a great imagination. How else can a chemist begin to understand the atom?

“One or two atoms can convert a fuel to a poison, change a colour, render an inedible substance edible, or replace a pungent odour with a fragrant one. That changing a single atom can have such consequences is the wonder of the chemical world.”

PW Atkins

The Chemistry Department at Haileybury is popular and widely renowned for its approach to teaching this crucial subject. We believe in laboratory work for all, we recognise that pupils learn by doing, in inspired surroundings, with dynamic teaching. The laboratories recently underwent a large refurbishment, which has freshened up the Department while retaining its old magic.

“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is: ‘that all things are made of atoms’.”

Richard Feynman

On the academic side, we have an excellent record for Oxbridge applications and our uptake and retention statistics for A Levels remain impressive. One of the reasons for that is the popular chemistry ‘clinics’ on Friday afternoons alongside an extensive enrichment programme. This includes a trip to Glaxo Smith Klein and an inspiring lecture day in London for the lower sixth. The sixth form also have the opportunity to compete in the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge and the Chemistry Olympiad. Lectures with visiting speakers and extension lessons which explore topics beyond the syllabus are also laid on. In the middle school the pupils can either choose the Edexcel iGCSE dual award science course or the Edexcel iGCSE triple award program. In sixth form the pupils can either opt for OCR AS/A2 chemistry or the IB diploma course.

University successes

We have an excellent record of inspiring pupils to read chemistry or related degrees at university. Over 30 pupils have gone on to read chemistry, biochemistry or chemical engineering in the past five years. Eight pupils have gone on to read chemistry or natural sciences at Oxford or Cambridge. Our success in public exams continues with 79% A*-B in 2012 for A2 OCR and a record average points score of 6.4 for IB Higher Level.

"The Haileybury Chemistry Department inspired me to read chemistry at university. The stats don't lie when it comes to these things. It's probably the best department in the country." Greg Carton (Chemistry, Oxford University)

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