The Royal Society’s Hauksbee Awards recognises the backroom boffins of science labs, research institutions and schools who work to support the UK science base. In March, ten individuals won the Royal Society Hauksbee Award for excellence in supporting science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This month we speak to one of the winners
Tim Harrison is the first Bristol ChemLabS School Teacher Fellow in the School of Chemistry. He champions chemistry through a variety of channels including conducting engaging and inspiring workshops across the UK and abroad to school students of all ages. He also arranges conferences, laboratory workshops, competitions and summer schools, and works with postgraduate chemists in all aspects of science communication. Laboratory News caught up with Tim before he headed off to Sci-Fest Africa 2010.
How do you feel to be awarded with a Hauksbee Award?
I feel very humble and honoured to receive the award. I do feel that it is a reflection of the considerable efforts that the Outreach team has put into the promotion of chemistry we are very seriously engaged in at Bristol. Under the Bristol ChemLabS project we engage with around 27,000- 30,000 primary and secondary students (and their teachers) per year.
Could you tell me a bit more about the work that you do?
In short I work globally promoting chemistry by whatever means. This involves working with postgraduate chemists in science communication, teacher training, giving vast numbers of lecture demonstrations, writing articles for students and research papers on outreach, working with groups of final year undergraduates on projects associated with chemistry teaching in schools, lecturing on outreach, etc. In addition to having the title of School Teacher Fellow, I am also the Science Communicator in Residence.
Tell us a bit more about ChemLabS:
The ChemLabS portfolio of outreach activities is extensive and covers primary, secondary and wider community activities as well as teacher training. These range from using the teaching laboratories with school and other groups (when they are not being used by Bristol undergraduates), to schools conferences at the university and elsewhere, practical workshops taken into schools, and lecture demonstrations. A comprehensive catalogue of all outreach activities can be found on the ChemLabS website at http://www.chemlabs.bris.ac.uk/outreach/. The idea of opening teaching laboratories on a regular basis for school use has been subsequently championed by the RSC and several Chemistry departments have now adopted this idea. Bristol ChemLabS received funding from the RSC Chemistry for our Future project to develop this idea further.
During the last five years, the outreach team have engaged with over 100,000 people directly, with a peak of 30,000 during the academic year 2008/9 but likely to be surpassed in 2009/10. National and international recognition of the Outreach Programme is evident from the many awards to individual members and also to the project as a whole. In 2009 Bristol ChemLabS Outreach received a Business in the Community Big Tick Award; the only university department of any subject to achieve this, and was also ‘Highly Commended’ in the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Education Award category. In 2006 the outreach director Prof Dudley Shallcross won the inaugural Society of Chemical Industry’s International Science Education Award (with other awards from the Met. Office and the Royal Society of Chemistry, RSC).
The impact of Bristol ChemLabS Outreach has also been truly international. Thus, ChemLabS has engaged with many international organisations and HEIs to discuss and to deliver outreach and outreach training. Examples include running the winter chemistry workshops at the National University of Singapore and the training of demonstrators at the Sci-Bono Science Centre in Johannesburg. ChemLabS has been involved in two EU funded projects as the contributing experts in Outreach and currently is a major contributor to a €4.5m grant application to work with 14 countries. The experience gained in all Outreach activities has been made widely available to others through a series of research papers, invited lectures, conferences and informal talks both within the UK and abroad.
Over 400 postgraduate chemists have been involved in Outreach activities through the STEM Ambassador Programme where they have not only engaged with school students acting as role models in promoting chemistry/science, but have themselves developed their communication and other skills. Several have gone on to teaching/lecturing roles or to work in science communication generally.
Will this award change anything in your working life?
I don’t expect it to change anything but the award will be of assistance in grant applications in supporting future outreach projects!
- The Hauksbee Awards are named after Francis Hauksbee, Isaac Newton’s laboratory assistant at the Royal Society from 1703 to 1713. Newton appointed Hauksbee as curator and instrument maker during his time as President, and in 1705, Hauksbee was appointed a Fellow in his own right. The Awards were part of the Royal Society’s 350th Anniversary celebrations.