Dr Craig Campbell
Departmental Lecturer in Practical Chemistry
My role involves designing and implementing our new practical course, as well as teaching the students as they progress through the new course.
The redesign of the practical course at Oxford has taken a number of bold and innovative steps:
Firstly, through changing the focus of the practical work to skills-development, utilising a spiral curriculum approach: for each identified skill or technique, the various aspects to that technique are explored progressively; new facets and more advanced applications are introduced as students progress, building upon their previous experience. Our course redesign purposefully seeks to apply various skills/techniques collectively to answer scientific questions, utilising both synthetic and analytical methods.
Secondly, the practical course was designed to be interdisciplinary and integrated, reflecting modern aspects of chemistry at the interface, both with different branches of the subject and with other disciplines. We have worked collectively with the Biochemistry and Physics departments at Oxford to develop such practicals, and continue to expand collaborations and partnerships with other departments.
In recognition of the impact of our approach to practical chemistry, I have been a recipient of a Vice Chancellor’s Education Award, 2020, shortlisted for a Vice Chancellor’s Education Award, 2022, and awarded Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, 2022.
The COVID-19 Global Pandemic, and The DryLabs Professional Learning Network
The global COVID-19 pandemic was a particularly challenging time for educators, particularly those involved in practical training/teaching. I was heavily involved in developing materials for the pivot to remote learning, which are tremendous resources for use in our ever-evolving practical course as we return to the new ‘normal’.
To accelerate how the wider scientific community addressed the challenges of teaching practical subjects during the pandemic, I helped initiate the #DryLabs Professional Learning Network – an online forum for educators nationally and internationally to meet and share practices that could be ported between colleagues, without the need for extensive redevelopment.
What became apparent, very early on, was how important such a forum was in the educational community. The network serves in building a safe-space for educators to talk openly, to share ideas, consider the next significant ventures, enterprises and challenges on the horizon, and make connections with individuals involved in chemical education across the whole sector.
Since moving to Oxford, I have held lectureships in Organic Chemistry at various colleges. I currently hold lectureships in Organic Chemistry at The Queen’s College and St Hugh’s College, where I teach primarily the second year (Part IA) and third year (Part IB) programmes. Additionally, I oversee the various Part II research projects ongoing within the Stewart group in the Chemistry Teaching Laboratory each year. Together, these positions provide tremendous insights into which areas of the subject students find most troublesome, and enables me to take a variety of approaches to address these difficulties, including how these can be covered in the practical course. Overcoming such problems – often identified as thresholds, or threshold concepts – has been an active area of interest of chemical education research for me within the Chemistry Teaching Laboratory.
Recent research project areas include: developing new practicals utilising various modern methods; three dimensional thinking and representation of structure; what makes the topic of acids and bases so troublesome?
Outreach and Public Engagement
Alongside teaching the current undergraduate cohort, I am active in promoting chemistry to the wider community, and particularly to inspire and engage potential chemists of the future. Working alongside our Educational Outreach Officer, I have been involved in Part II research projects looking to develop new resources for secondary education, including projects on electrochemistry and the chemistry of curcumin. I participate in various events held both in the Chemistry Teaching Laboratory and externally to promote chemistry, including holding workshops on 3D thinking and structure, escape-room challenges, practical laboratory sessions, and both the tutorials and practicals involved with the UNIQ and Bridging programmes.
• Vice-Chancellor’s Education Awards 2020 – Winner: Development of a Truly Integrated Chemistry Practical Course
• Vice-Chancellor’s Education Awards, 2022 – Shortlisted: COVID as a Catalyst for Significant Improvements to the Student Teaching Experience of Practical Chemistry
• Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy, HE, 2022.
Beginning my university education in 2001, I completed both my MChem and PhD from The University of St Andrews (in 2006 and 2010, respectively), completing my doctoral studies with Professor Andrew Smith investigating Lewis base promoted enantioselective organocatalysis.
As part of my MChem degree, I completed a year of industrial placement in Veterinary Medicine Discovery at Pfizer Ltd, in Sandwich, Kent, UK.
From 2011-2015, I moved to The University of Oxford to complete postdoctoral research, first with Professor Edward Anderson, then Professor Martin Smith. The projects broadly encompassed domino/cascade catalysis to prepare complex products from simple building blocks, using transition metal or phase transfer catalysis.
In 2015, to coincide with the opening of the new, state-of-the-art undergraduate chemistry teaching facilities at Oxford, I moved from the Chemistry Research Laboratory (CRL) to the Chemistry Teaching Laboratory (CTL) to help design the new undergraduate practical course. My initial role was as Course Developer for the new practical course, which then progressed with appointment to my current position of Departmental Lecturer in Practical Chemistry.
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