“I study chemistry. I get a wide range of reactions when I say that: The expression on the other’s face is usually a mix of respect and pity. It may also send a cold shiver down the other’s spine who is reminded of their chemistry classes at school. However, some also express their admiration for having ‘survived’ in this degree programme until now. Occasionally, I even meet people who share my passion for natural sciences.
When I talk about my degree programme, most people are surprised to hear that half of the programme consists of practical courses. I was already standing in a laboratory right at the beginning of my studies – observing detection reactions in test tubes was extremely exciting. Of course, I did not only pour and spill chemicals in the lab. I also had to attend many lectures, seminars and exercises. Apart from the course contents, I was especially fascinated by the history of the building: Every time I sit an exam at the Carl Auer von Welsbach lecture hall, I am enthralled by its charm. The thought of studying at a place where so many important researchers have worked before has always motivated and inspired me.
I created my own public Instagram account because I wanted to share my enthusiasm with the world: @chemistrylover_vie. This is where I share my experiences with other science geeks and write about my degree programme. I am particularly happy that the proportion of women among my followers is very high, as the natural sciences are still regarded as a male-dominated field. My aim is to make chemistry accessible in a vivid way to a wide audience. This is especially important because there are still lots of prejudices. Therefore, we should not underestimate the role of science communicators and even promote their activities.
Nonetheless, I do not want to paint a false picture. The degree programme becomes very labour intensive soon, both in the lab as well as in the courses. Desperation is inevitable. Since there is no guarantee for a lab place, flexibility and time management are essential skills. I frequently practise these skills when I try to reconcile lectures, lab work, studying and the little bit of leisure time I have. At the moment, I can see myself working in the field of biochemistry in the future, but first I want to get my bachelor’s degree and then my master’s degree as quickly as possible.
Finally, I would like to add: I definitely made the right choice when enrolling on the degree programme in Chemistry. I hope that I can inspire others with my enthusiasm. We chemists are a very friendly bunch and happy to welcome newcomers.” – Nina Hochmeister
Nina is studying Chemistry at the University of Vienna.