Semester 1 2012/13: the first quarter (and before)

Hard to believe, but we are a quarter of the way through the Autumn Semester at Keele. Time for some reflection; a lot has happened since my last post which contained the Chemistry programme for the Science Festival!

The British Science Festival this year was my last one as Recorder; after 21 years of involvement with the British Science Association, and 12 years as Recorder, it seemed time to move on. Coupled with the fact that I have an excellent successor in Stephen Ashworth, who I am confident will respond to the new challenges that are confronting festival organisers (I discussed these in a post earlier this year). The Festival itself seemed to go well; Aberdeen was an excellent location, and our sessions were well-attended and well-received.

Almost immediately after the Science Festival I was off to London, Guildford and finally Oxford in quick succession, for a series of meetings and a conference. The conference in Oxford, for UK Academics involved in Nuclear Energy Research, was interesting, and held in the beautiful surroundings of St Anne’s College, Oxford. Having got back from that, I had a week to draw breath before the semester started.

So, how has it been going? I’ve been lecturing so far to the Foundation Year on General Chemistry (which I’ve been doing for a long time, and hope for a change next year), and to the Final Year Forensic Science class on Arson and Fires. As far as I can tell, the lectures are going OK, and certainly the classes are quiet and attentive, which is very much appreciated!

The main challenge has been in supervising 6 project students who are doing projects in my research area of Computational Solid State Chemistry. We have an unusually large final year, and I have previously had about half this number of project student, on average. It’s a challenge for them, because they have a very steep learning curve (unlike some other projects, they can’t use any of the things they have learned in previous years), and it’s a challenge for me to find interesting topics, and to keep all the projects running smoothly! Having never had more than 1 or 2 PhD students at any given time, I’m not used to this kind of subdivision on my time on research projects. But after 3 weeks, they are all up and running, and they will all produce sufficient results for their dissertations, which is important from the teaching point of view. And from the research viewpoint, all of the topics have the potential to lead to greater things, if time, funding and personnel permit.

So that’s where I am at the moment. I finish my Foundation Year lectures next week, while the Forensics one have some time to go. Final Year Solid State Chemistry will be the next challenge, and this year I’m hoping to use Transparent Conducting Oxides, and the latest developments in lithium ion battery technology as examples. I’ll hopefully post an update in 3 weeks or so!

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