Category Archives: Chemistry

Teaching band structure to chemistry students

For some years now I have taught the basic ideas of band structure to our final year Chemists. I do this in an entirely non-mathematical way, showing how the bands are formed, and why metals and insulators have the band structures they have. It’s an entirely chemistry-based approach, which I haven’t found taught quite in the same way anywhere else. My lecture notes on this topic can be found here (lecture 2 has most of the relevant material), and my original inspiration came from Smart and Moore’s excellent book, which is one of the main references for the course.

My question is this. Does anyone else out there adopt a similar approach, and if so, would your be prepared to have a discussion about this, and possibly share good practice on this topic? I would also be interested to hear from anyone adopting different approaches, bearing in mind that the more physics-based, mathematical approaches won’t work for students with minimal mathematical background!

RSC General Assembly 2011, and Bill Bryson

On Friday and Saturday of this week I attended the RSC General Assembly, which is a kind of annual get-together of people involved in the RSC local sections and interest groups. From the Chemistry point of view it was interesting, with some good presentations giving food for thought, but the high point was meeting the author Bill Bryson. I have read all his books, and enjoyed them all, so being able to meet the man himself was a great privilege!

Research update, and more on lecture format

A quick post this morning, because I’m off for a few days holiday this afternoon!

I’m pleased to say that on Tuesday I heard from Optical Materials that the paper I mentioned in my ‘research review’ post had been accepted without changes. That’s a relief, because this is the paper that introduces the technique (the concentration dependence of doping in materials). So with this paper accepted, our subsequent papers have a more secure foundation.

The other thing I was going to mention was that,  when I visited the University of Bradford on Monday for a meeting about the forthcoming Science Festival, I had an interesting chat with some colleagues there who teach on their Chemistry course, and at least one said that he gives the students a couple of breaks during his lectures. This ties in with my view that a 50 minute lecture is no longer compatible with most students’ concentration spans. I’m thinking of doing something like that myself next year, and I’ve also had an idea for how to start my lectures rather than fumbling around with my laptop and the data projector for 5 minutes! But more of that in a later post.

I’m looking forward to a few days in Brussels, and then my annual ‘pilgrimage’ to the GBBF. I’ll be reporting on the GBBF in a future post.

Chemistry PhDs: progression from a first degree

I decided to post this following a discussion on Twitter with two Chemistry colleagues, from Liverpool and York respectively (@SimonHiggins_60 and @Dr_PaulC). It started with a Twitter advertisement for a PhD position, where a person with an MChem was sought to fill the position. I picked up on this because at Keele we don’t do MChems, but at the same time, our students go on to do PhDs at universities all over the UK, at no apparent disadvantage to those who have an MChem. I commented on this issue in an earlier post, which was in response to an EndPoint article by David Phillips.

The point for discussion is essentially this. Does doing an MChem make a significant difference to a student’s ability to do a PhD? Yes, I agree they will get a bit more research experience, and (depending on the course), some more chemical ‘knowledge’ (which may or or not be useful in their PhD). But from my experience with our students over many years, it makes no diference at all in the end. Comments, agreements and disagreements are very welcome!