Chemistry in progress: Hermann’s journey towards combating climate change
By Sarah Begum, Communications and Content Officer, Dover Campus
“Doing things that are easy has never taught me enough about myself.
Challenging tasks on the other hand, is what I find incredibly rewarding.”
Hermann Klein-Hessling, a Grade 12 IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) student from UWCSEA Dover, is no stranger to experiments and the long hours spent in the Science lab. On 23 May, his research on, ‘Banana-based biofuels for combating climate change: How the composition of enzyme catalysed solutions affects biofuel yield’ was published in The Journal of Emerging Investigators (JEI), a peer-reviewed journal run by Harvard graduate students that publishes original research in the biological and physical sciences conducted by Middle and High School students.
Inspired by the ever so precarious nature of climate change and its detrimental implications on our planet and society, Hermann’s research addresses the alternative sustainable forms of energy that could potentially mitigate the impact of climate change. His interest in biofuel primarily developed as a result of a Service trip to a small rural town in Indonesia when he was 12 years old. The lack of electricity had sparked an idea when he was still in Grade 9–10 about a self-sustaining biofuel lamp. As a result, conducting his Extended Essay (EE) research was the first step into potentially materialising this passion project.
When asked about his passion for Chemistry, Hermann revealed that it wasn’t until Grade 10, that he discovered his joy for the subject. Stating he was lucky enough to have exceptional teachers for Higher Level Chemistry, namely Mr. Armstrong and Sara Walker, Hermann believes the breadth and rigour of the course bridged the gap between IGCSEs and really catapulted his interest in Chemistry and its ability in creating capacity to help others.
“Chemistry has improved my emotional and academic resilience, work ethic and taught me to be analytical and methodological, whilst at times encouraging me to think outside of the box.”
Up until his enrolment in UWCSEA, Hermann did not have any proper exposure to experiments in a lab. However with the steady support of his Chemistry teachers who went out of their way, he was able to catch up to speed in time for the practical experiments in Chemistry. So far, his EE and publication were by far the most challenging things he’d experienced during the IB, but the lessons learnt from the constant challenges and the transition from failure to eventual success remain invaluable.
His advice to others interested or curious about the pursuit of Chemistry, is that, “Chemistry is a practical science – so by going out and applying the knowledge you learn in class, you are going to learn the most. Doing so also helps in retaining what you have learned in a fun and challenging way. These factors will help you go beyond a rudimentary level of understanding.”
In the near future, he intends on continuing and expanding the depth of his research, finding more ways to give back to the community by offering pro-bono tutoring in the Sciences and Maths, as well as continue with some classes to put towards funding university. He intends to major in Chemical Engineering with a focus/concentration on sustainable and humanitarian engineering. Hoping to further explore his interest in catalysis, material science and alternative sources of sustainable energy, Hermann is truly ecstatic about the possibilities of making his self-sustained biofuel lamp work should the opportunity arise in university or graduate school. His career aspiration is to be a practicing engineer or even educating the next wave of scientists and innovators.
Quoting Thomas Edison, “I didn’t fail, I merely found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” Hermann’s journey ranged from inconclusive experiments, failed experiments, unexplainable results to preparing his manuscript/paper. Amidst the challenges and the hardship of spending over 50 hours in the lab, Hermann’s ambition paid off with his resilience and perseverance.
Rachel Ingram Head of High School Chemistry
“The Chemistry department is so proud of Hermann's success with this project. He has worked incredibly hard at every stage of this project and has overcome many challenges. It is incredibly rare for a student of Hermann's age to have experimental work accepted for publication. This is a very big deal! Hermann's determination to ensure his project yielded good results, alongside his genuine passion for the project have been significant factors in his success. One of the things that has made us extremely happy is that through completing this project, which became an extension of his Extended Essay, Hermann has developed a love of experimental science and found the path he would like to follow in his future career. The world needs as many passionate and tenacious experimental scientists as it can get. Hermann most certainly fits this description.”
Hermann dedicates his publication to his supervisor, Rachel Ingram, teachers Sara Walker, Adrian Armstrong Joy and Wahida (Chemistry Technicians), his friends and family who have supported him these past two years during the IB programme.