Finlay Clark

MChem Chemistry 2021

Your Time at the University

It’s my 6th year studying chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, and I still love the subject, the city, and the university. I’ve always had a broad interest in the sciences and chemistry appealed particularly because of its variety. Edinburgh boasted a strong reputation and an excellent mountain bike club, so studying chemistry at Edinburgh was an easy decision.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my degree was its diversity. Through taking electives in physics and biology, I was able to study a broad range of science, and through a summer project and an industrial placement, I was exposed to both academic and industrial research. The core chemistry modules were also excellent, and I owe my continued interest in the subject to many inspiring and entertaining lecturers. My summer project and industrial placement were academic highlights of my time in Edinburgh – I greatly enjoyed the creativity of research, something which drove my decision to pursue a PhD following my MChem.

Finlay Clark

Outside of chemistry, I had a huge amount of fun with the university cycling club, which provided a fantastic platform to meet people and to explore Scotland. The group mountain bike rides were always an enjoyable level of chaos, especially in muddy Scottish winter conditions.

Finally, I’m grateful to have had so many years to explore the city, which is beautiful.

Your Experiences Since Leaving the University

I finished my degree with a strong interest in physical chemistry and research, but little concrete idea of what I wanted to do. While I was interested in fundamental research, it had been inspiring to see how scientific advances are translated into products which tangibly benefit society during my time at Johnson Matthey. I also liked the idea of passing on my enthusiasm for chemistry through teaching. I applied to a range of positions including postgraduate diplomas in education, chemistry graduate schemes, and PhDs.

In the end, I was extremely lucky to be offered a PhD project in the Michel group back at Edinburgh, working on improving the speed and accuracy of computer calculations of drug binding affinities. This perfectly fits my interests, allowing me to study biological systems from the perspective of physics and chemistry, and to combine academic and industrial research, as the project is in collaboration with AstraZeneca. It’s hugely engaging to work in such a diverse research area – previous members of the group have had backgrounds in chemistry, physics, biology, maths, and computing. I’ve also enjoyed the experience of demonstrating on a course on python for chemists. It's great to be back in Edinburgh, too.

My first year of my PhD has been a steep learning curve, but enjoyable. While very different to my degree, my undergraduate courses gave me a broad background in chemistry which prepared me well for my postgraduate studies.

Alumni Wisdom

Make sure to explore Scotland, and the huge range of clubs and societies the University has to offer!