Studying chemistry at Manchester is really great. Despite the large year group there is a great level of support, be that the PASS tutors of 3rd/4th year undergrads, postgraduate demonstrators or academic staff with organic, inorganic, physical and personal tutors.
What is your current role and your main responsibilities?
I am the Royal Society of Chemistry's Education Coordinator, North West. There are four main strands to this position:
- Engaging with chemistry/science teachers both on an individual level and via teacher networks: keeping them up to date with RSC resources on Learn Chemistry website and offering to provide support in the teaching of chemistry, including practical work, whether that be via our CPD courses or the free Learn Chemistry Partnership. Sourcing teacher networks typically comes from contact with STEMNET and Science Learning Centres, however all avenues are welcome.
- Engaging with Higher Education Institute's (HEIs) in North West, in both the Outreach departments and the ITT (initial teacher trainer) providers: this ensures that I have knowledge of the work that is being carried out when I visits schools across the region. By engaging with ITT's the RSC can provide the trainee teachers support from the start of their teaching career.
- Engaging with industries in the North West: this involves sourcing what outreach chemical industries in the North West currently do and whether they want to get involved with RSC funded outreach activities such as Chemistry at Work and ChemNet events. Also, by building up industry contacts we are able to help schools and industries to work together.
- Engage with RSC local sections and specialist divisions in the North West.
- One day a week is set aside to work on behalf of University of Manchester. I use this day to organise and deliver Spectroscopy in a Suitcase workshops (RSC funded initiative) to schools across North West.
Please summarise your overall career since graduation, but in particular, what was your first relevant role to the area in which you work now and how did you secure that position?
I gradated from The University of Manchester with my MChem Chemistry with Study in North America in 2006, where I had spent a year studying at University of Toronto, Canada. I then went on to do a PhD in Inorganic/Materials chemistry at Manchester for Professor Paul O'brien, where I made nanoparticles for biomarkers as part of a large consortium of different UK universities.
Outside of the chemistry department I became a STEM ambassador (and still am) and took part in Manchester Science Festival and some of their trail blazer events. I have also volunteered at the BBC's Bang Goes the Theory LIVE road shows and the Wallace and Gromit's World of Invention tour.
During the write up period of my PhD I worked for Orange RockCorps in their six week Manchester programme as a Project Coordinator planning, preparing and being in charge of volunteers for projects across Greater Manchester, which were happening twice a week, as well as working at the end concert at Manchester Apollo in July 2010.
Just before I did my viva for PhD I was awarded a Pathfinder Fellowship to develop outreach activities in The University of Manchester's chemistry department. It was during the period that the RSC job became available. I filled out an application form which lead to me being shortlisted for an interview which consisted of bringing a 200 word summary of a 9 page document, doing a five minute presentation on an educational resource that I considered very good, and a question and answer session with a panel of three University staff and one RSC staff.
My job as an Education Coordinator was initially focussed on teacher support and creating links with industries and universities/STEM education providers to put on chemistry events aimed at secondary level students. It has now evolved to recognise the amount of outreach we do whether that be attending large multi-school career fairs, large events, e.g. Big Bang NW which sees approx. 6000 students attend, to supporting RSC members to feel confident to volunteer and engage in these type of events. All my outreach experience has meant that I am confident when it comes to coming up with suitable activities to do, providing risk assessments and training volunteers who want to get involved.
How has your qualification helped you in your career?
A PhD was a pre-requisite for this job so it was very necessary.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Helping increase the numbers of chemistry students we have interacted with in a year to over 27,000 students from just less than 8000 the previous year!
What advice would you give to someone thinking of pursuing a similar career route and what skills/experience do you consider to be necessary?
Get involved as much as possible. If public speaking worries you, force yourself to do every talk that is possible as practise does make perfect! I was a very shy child and now I am giving presentations at least once a week to groups of up to 100 people. Volunteer at events to gain experience and confidence. Being well organised also helps a lot.
What did you most enjoy about your time at Manchester?
I like the fact that Manchester is considered such a large city but the city centre is nice and compact so that everything is within walking distance. All major events happen in Manchester and there is always somewhere new to discover. I love Manchester so much I bought a flat here and have no plans on leaving any time soon!
Why would you recommend the University as a good place to study?
Studying Chemistry at Manchester is really great. Despite the large year group there is a great level of support, be that the PASS tutors of 3rd/4th year undergrads, postgraduate demonstrators or academic staff with organic, inorganic, physical and personal tutors. The admin staff in the department are all really friendly too and the place has such a good atmosphere. Chemsoc put on good events for the undergraduates and RSC Manchester Younger Members also put on events for both undergrads and postgrads.