Quantum Physics No Longer A Quandary for Thomas
Spending two weeks at an intensive chemistry summer school may not sound like a holiday to most but for Thomas Drake-Brockman the opportunity to learn from some of Australia’s brightest minds was too good to miss.
The Year 12 student recently returned from Monash University, Melbourne, where he joined 72 other Science Olympiad Scholars from across Australia after being selected in the esteemed programme last year. Thomas, who ranked amongst the top 20 students in Australia in the National Qualifying Exam, was one of four students from Western Australia to attend.
Thomas said the 10-hour a day programme included lectures, labs and tutorials on quantum, analytical, bonding and organic chemistry, as well as thermodynamics, kinetics, quantum physics and analytical mathematics. “Quantum physics is scary stuff,” he said. “I thought it was quite amusing when the lecturer said ‘we’ll just assume you understand classical physics’. However, once I got over the fact that I couldn’t understand it – it clicked.”
Highlights for Thomas included making crystals out of old aluminum cans and the last night party while he is sure to remember burning a hole through his shoe with concentrated acetic acid.
The final lab exam, four hours of practical chemistry, which he sat at the end of the summer school, plus a two-day written exam on physical chemistry, to be held in four weeks’ time, will determine whether Thomas makes selection in the Australian Chemistry Olympiad Team. For now, he is aiming for a silver medal.
Thomas said he met some amazing, fantastic and strange people and encouraged other boys to take up the opportunity to train with Director of Studies, Monica Mackay, in Years 10 and 11. “Even if you don’t make it to the camp, you are covering course material earlier, which is always going to help you a lot.”
While Thomas has an obvious talent for chemistry, he plans to pursue computer science after he leaves school. He has even been working at a computer programming company in the city. However, his ultimate dream is to study entertainment technology at Carnegie Mellon University in the US. “I’d like to work in theatre doing impossible things.”