Undergraduate Student Stories

ELISABETTA RONCHI (Chemistry, 2013)

Current Pembroke undergraduate, Elisabetta, reflects on her time here so far, her recent exam success and future plans.


My course is the MChem, a four year course in chemistry. I have finished my third year and overall I have a first class degree. This year I was third in my year and for that I received a Gibbs book prize. I also received the GSK third year undergraduate award for practical organic chemistry.


I really like how various parts of the course get together by the end of third year and what was learnt in an area can be used to justify observations in another. In my course there isn’t much choice in the degree structure so I enjoyed my advanced paper courses that allowed me to choose various topics from the three main areas of chemistry and explore them at Masters level.

I enjoy being in a lab and up to now I have spent more than 300 hours in the organic, inorganic and physical chemistry labs. Next year it’ll be my Part 2 year when I’ll undertake a research project in organic chemistry. I think the opportunity to spend one year doing research in one of the best research facilities in the world is a fantastic chance and I’m really looking forward to it.

The standard of the chemistry teaching in Pembroke is really high. My tutors have always been extremely supportive and at the same time pushed me to develop the ability to work autonomously and be able to tackle problems about topics I’m not too familiar with. They’re also readily available to help with summer applications and that allowed me to have some great experiences that strengthened my desire of pursuing a science based career.  


People at Pembroke are incredibly helpful and welcoming, especially as an international student I got a lot of support at the beginning of my university experience from both my College family and the welfare team.

I also really like that there is a club/society for basically everything, from football to pool, and the College is really good at both sports and art (the musical every year is great) which leads to a strong sense of community.

My friends are mostly doing different subjects so organising social activities is always a bit of a problem, but we got into a really nice routine in which we’d meet every day at dinner and spend a good hour in the hall chatting and relaxing. Especially during Trinity term when exams get closer and stress increases we used to have pleasant tea breaks when we could just stop work for an hour and enjoy some company.


To new students, I’d say that being ready to work hard is a definitely essential, but at the same time not to be discouraged if at the beginning it seems difficult. For how the tutorial system is structured a lot of autonomous work is required and that can be daunting at first.

What I noticed during these three years is that my ability to work on my own and tackle a problem on a new topic has developed enormously and it’s one of the things I most appreciate about my university experience (and I think it’s good preparation for a future as scientific researcher).

I think to succeed in a field it’s quite important to really like what one’s doing; of course there are topics that can be more or less interesting but a general curiosity for the subject really helps. To achieve high results, having the desire to get to understand different areas of the field in depth and try to make connections is definitely helpful (and obviously hard work is fundamental).


I’m currently thinking of applying for a PhD since I’d really like to pursue a career in science.


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