After completing a final year project in carbohydrate chemistry, as part of my undergraduate degree in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Dundee, I undertook a PhD investigating the synthesis of nodulation factors. This was followed by post-doctoral research at the University of St. Andrews, the University of Arkansas (Little Rock) and finally, at Newcastle University, before I joined the Department of Chemistry at Oxford in May 2001, as the Teaching Co-ordinator (Organic), running the organic teaching labs.
Over the next few years, I focused on developing my teaching skills. In 2004, I gained a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (PgDipTLHE, Oxford) and, having received two teaching awards (2006 & 2008) from the University of Oxford, I was awarded a Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) in 2008. The funds generated from the teaching awards allowed work to begin on developing a holistic practical chemistry course. Initial findings were presented at the Science Learning and teaching conference at the University of Keele, and, in conjunction with Dr Hugh Cartwright, I was award a grant from the Oxford Centre of Excellence in Teaching Fund in 2009 to fund a post-doctoral researcher to continue this important work.
At the same time as the research into practical teaching at the undergraduate level was taking off, I also discovered how important Outreach work was to me. In the summer of 2001, I worked on the Sutton Trust summer school programme. Whilst this was rewarding to all those involved, I felt the Department could offer so much more to local schools. Alongside Dr Fabrice Birembaut, I initiated the creation of the MPLS Outreach officers' forum to help departments communicate with each other and I became actively involved with the Oxford Widening Participation Team, providing academic input into many new projects like the UNIQ course, MPLS Christmas Lectures (Oxford University Christmas Science Lectures - Chemistry Show) and “Murder in the Cloisters”, an event for young carers. The success of these schemes, alongside other local and national interventions, led to an increase in the diversity of students studying chemistry at Oxford. However, it become clear that many of these people struggled with ‘fitting in’ once they arrived at University, which led to the development of the Chemistry Bridging Course. This work was presented at VICE 2010 at Loughborough University, before developing into the MPLS Bridging Course, which has further evolved into the Opportunity Oxford scheme.
In recognition of this body of work in the field, I was asked to sit on the RSC Schools and Colleges panel, before being elected onto the RSC Educational Divisional Council where I served as a member for two 3-year terms (2011-2017). Following this, I was elected onto the RSC Tertiary Education group of which I am currently a member (2017-present).
I was the scientific expert for the Usborne ‘Lift The Flap periodic table’ book, which is a book introducing the periodic table to 7-10 year old children, and also a transition-to-university book, co-authored with Dr Fabrice Birembaut and Dr Mike Clugston, which will be published in August 2021.