My Woodhouse Chemistry

Callum  Helcke
Callum Helcke
Callum Helcke came to Woodhouse from Finchley Catholic High School and lives in High Barnet. He studied chemistry, physics and mathematics at A level and graduated in 2018 with A*A*A*. He is currently at Bath University studying chemistry.
He spoke to us during his second year of A levels...
“I first saw the Woodhouse chemistry laboratories at open day and thought they looked really cool and had a lot of equipment to use, which is good because practical aspects of chemistry definitely appeal to me.
At the beginning of the course, we started on electronic structure and straight away that’s more of a physics side to chemistry which interests to me. I enjoy a high level of thinking of chemistry and it was instantly a jump into that, compared to GSCE which is more basic. At GCSE you’re just force fed the facts and observe the teacher doing the experiments but, with Woodhouse being more like a bridge to degree level, you do a lot more work independently here. Now I do practical chemistry in class almost every week.
My teacher goes in to extreme detail when she is teaching topics which is intriguing to me, as she also adds in a lot of stuff that’s not technically going to come up in our exam but is interesting and means you enjoy the lesson as well as learn the topic. Our teachers are always available to answer questions outside of class time and we have tutorial sessions as well that you can go to if you need help on a specific thing.
At the end of the year we had a test where we were given pots of different chemicals and not told what they were. We had to use different reagent tests like Tollens' reagentor Fehling’s reagent and determine what the ions in the powder were. We did a flame test as well – (you’re not meant to but if you add two different powders together you get some different colours). Applying the things we had learnt was really useful because in the exam we get pretty much that same problem in written form – saying chemical X did this… determine what it is.
I’ve started reading Chemistry Review, a magazine which is great for students that want to study a higher level of chemistry and it’s good that we have that here. There’s plenty of useful chemistry books in our huge library.
I went on the two-day trip to CERN in Geneva (home of the Large Hadron Collider). We had a really full schedule of places to visit, but we also got to just go off and explore by ourselves - which I love about Woodhouse, that trust… and treating us like adults.
Wherever I am, I always try and find the chemistry in a place. I did some work experience at an x-ray imaging company in Germany and they had a coolant for their C-arm x-ray machine and I asked what chemicals were in it. They asked around, but no one seemed to know… The work experience was a great opportunity. An alumni mum of a student worked in Germany for Ziehm Imaging, and she offered our principal four work experience places, and he chose us from the applicants. We stayed with a Woodhouse girl, Elena, (who had returned to Germany) in her family home, which was really nice of them. We got to experience Nuremberg as well as go to Ziehm and see all the technical stuff it. It was so insane, the first two days we were learning the theory behind x-rays, health and safety and observing clinical images and stuff… and then we had factory tours where we got to look at complex machines that I could hardly comprehend. They explained how they had to vary all the technology just the slightest bit for each countries regulations that they exported to, it was really interesting.
I’m moving more towards chemistry from physics now because I see it more as the main science. I’ve looked at Nottingham University as probably my first choice but maybe Bath for a Pure Chemistry degree. I’m not sure on a career path yet but right now chemistry is the subject I enjoy the most so I’m just going to keep pursuing that.
It’s certainly been a cultural change for me at Woodhouse. You come in from year 11 and you think you are the big guns or whatever… But then it’s like ‘OMG - I thought I was independent with my learning, or I was compared to people at my old school’. With five hours work in each subject, every week, you have to be so independent and on top of your work - which is something I’ve definitely improved at and it’s a great skill to have.And your timetable’s so varied - you feel like you’re experiencing new things every day.
And there’s lots of extracurricular here, I went on a trip with the astronomy club and even took two weeks of street dance.
It’s easy to take socializing for granted when you are with the same people for five years and comfortable - but in life you need to get yourself out there and talk to people. Woodhouse definitely helped with that and I find it a lot easier to socialize now. I came with just one mate, but we’ve got a good group of friends now. You’ll always find friends at Woodhouse.”