“You can make anything from anything”
The confidence bordering arrogance of organic chemists of old in their affirmation that the most intricate of molecules can be constructed from the basic building blocks that nature provides is reflected in all aspects of modern Chemistry and its diverse applications. We are surrounded by stuff, much of which is now synthetic and provides us with materials that have properties and uses far beyond the scope of the imagination of some of the early chemists, I have no doubt. The nature of this stuff; its genesis, structure, behaviour and potential strays into a realm intimately associated with Chemistry but which has forged a path of its own in the last 50 years: material science. We have had material scientists at Runnymede College in the recent past and we have an outstanding pupil heading for Imperial College to pursue this noble and exciting discipline this coming academic year.
We must, however, take caution in our celebration of all things synthetic. The use of plastics, their manufacture and more importantly, their disposal has leapt to the forefront of investigation in recent years as we all wince with embarrassment at the sight of islands of waste in some Pacific paradise. There is much to do and I sense, for the first time in many years, that our young generations of scientists are again up for the task.
Each year provides us with surprise, elation and celebration in the arduous road to university: the application process with the associated emotional roller coaster for the pupils (and the teachers!) is so often a milepost in the lives of young adults; there is definitely a before and after. This year we have 4 budding physicians, destined for great things in their medical careers and so deserving of their opportunity. We watched them strive to achieve their life dream and shared in their elation when things eventually worked out. I am in awe of their drive and their resilience. I never fail to be revitalized each year by the self belief and motivation of our pupils, and the pleasure is mine to teach them. Well done to one and all.
At this point I usually talk about how the Department is expanding, and this year is no exception. We have more pupils taking A Level than ever before, more teachers and more practical work than ever. The new syllabus returns a welcome emphasis on the hands-on part of the discipline and pupils will benefit as a result, entering university with the necessary skills to succeed in the long “labs” that await them.
The calibre of the pupils, the rigors of the courses and the hard work of the teachers in the Department will continue to yield excellent results at IGCSE and beyond but the most important thing is that the outcome of what happens at School is that we all play our part in producing happy, confident, well-rounded individuals equipped with the emotional pre-requisites to face the challenges ahead. This must be our principle endeavour and only through this can we feel true satisfaction in what we do.