On 11 November, the Molecular Science and Technology Bachelor’s programme, a joint degree offered by the universities of Leiden and Delft, organised a corona-proof graduation ceremony. One of the graduates is the passionate eighteen-year-old Ruard van Workum. Ruard developed a passion for chemistry from an early age. He started studying Molecular Science & Technology at the age of fifteen.
'Chemistry is crucial to solving the complex problems of the 21st century' is a quote one could expect from a professor or manager, but this remark came from 18-year-old Ruard van Workum.
‘Chemistry has always fascinated me. I used to do experiments with chemistry sets and I started creating my own laboratory.' When Ruard had to decide what to study at the age of fourteen, the Bachelor’s degree programme in Molecular Science & Technology seemed like a good option. The programme combines Leiden’s theoretical focus on chemistry with Delft’s technical perspective.
Into the theory
The young chemist will be awarded his degree from Leiden University and TU Delft. In Leiden, students are taught the more fundamental subjects, which is the direction that Ruard chose. His aversion to lab work and actual experiments provided him with an opportunity to discover another passion: computational chemistry. 'Essentially, it’s the process of replicating chemical reactions and systems on a computer by performing calculations and simulations.' He enthusiastically predicts that this field will develop rapidly in the years to come.
Chemistry is hugely important; it’s about processing the basic elements that we have at our disposal into products that we want and need.
Chemistry is key to solving the problems of the twenty-first century
‘Chemistry is key to solving the problems of the twenty-first century, in particular complex problems such as climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic. I think that computational chemistry is going to have a major role to play in that and I want to make this field more open and accessible.'
Chemistry is important, and Ruard believes that everyone should have a basic understanding of the subject. He is already working on the development of visual educational methods for chemistry education. 'I want to combine Science, Technology and Society in a powerful concept.’
‘Make chemistry more accessible’
It has been proven that people can develop their skills more effectively if they start to think more visually. This applies to chemistry too. 'As it’s such an abstract field, we have to do more to help our pupils visualise things and really understand everything.'
Art with chemistry
For Ruard, chemistry is more than just an important subject; it’s also something quite extraordinary, ‘elegant’ even.
'I can just imagine virtual-reality experiences where people can discover the wondrous world of atoms and molecules and see just how beautiful it is. This type of thing is already being used in research to some extent, of course, but by sharing it, more people in our society can experience science. It gives people the opportunity to understand the world better.'
'I would love to explain to people just how elegantly everything in nature is structured in terms of the chemistry of it all. As far as that is concerned, our synthetic chemistry isn’t quite that advanced yet, given that nature has been evolving for four billion years.' There is still a lot to be done.
BSc Molecular Science & Technology
Molecular Science & Technology is a joint chemistry degree programme run by Leiden University and TU Delft. The Bachelor’s programme is a multifaceted, multidisciplinary programme. It combines the best of both universities and makes a contribution to tackling the challenges of the future.