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Specialist Staff – Science

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Photo: Physics students trip to The Welding Institute 2019.

Our Science department is full of specialist staff who dedicate their time to ensuring their students reach their full potential. From Cambridge graduates to industry experts; read below to meet some of our department staff and find out why they love teaching their course at Long Road! 

David Jones, Head of Science Department

David has achieved a BSc Civil Engineering from Southampton University giving him the qualifications he needed to work as a Graduate Civil Engineer with Taylor Woodrow, where his role saw him building Nuclear Power Stations in Lancashire.

What does he enjoy most about teaching Physics at Long Road? “Making sure the students understand and enjoy Physics, the fantastic working relationships with dynamic staff who will give you every help to achieve your potential”

Niamh McNabb, Head of Studies and Teacher of Physics

Niamh has a Physics degree from the University of Nottingham, working in education since 1999 following an exciting career in photography and magazine journalism. Niamh has taught extensively across the Arts and Sciences, spending 8 years teaching Photography, Media and Journalism and the last 12 years teaching Physics, Maths and Applied Science; taking on roles as Head of Photography and Head of Maths.

Niamh is also passionate about pastoral care; becoming part of the Long Road Senior Guidance Team in 2011 and Head of Studies in 2014. A member of the Long Road Safeguarding Team, Niamh was recently appointed Equality and Diversity Lead and is part of the team delivering the Courageous Leaders programme in conjunction with the Equality and Diversity in Education Regional Hub.

Photo: Taken by Photography student Gabbi; Chemistry Department Open Evening 2018.

Dr Simon Colebrooke, Chemistry Course Team Leader 

Simon has a BSc and PhD in Chemistry from the University of York; his PhD research focused on NMR studies of rhodium hydride complexes using parahydrogen to detect low concentration intermediates. He  “enjoyed the development of NMR experiments to new characterise species present in otherwise well-known reactions and being able to work out the 3D structure of molecules.”

“I most enjoy introducing students to concepts they have never seen before and helping them tie together different ideas. Develop their understanding enough to pursue science at university. I like the mature environment and approach to study.

Our Salter’s chemistry course includes very up-to-date contexts, covering applications and develops concepts you won’t even have considered at GCSE and looks at fundamental ideas allowing you to understand why reactions happen in the way they do and how chemists can take advantage of this knowledge.”

Dr Bridget Sutton, Teacher of Chemistry

Bridget has a PhD in Chemistry from Auckland University and spent a year working in forensic toxicology in New Zealand before moving to the UK. She then studied a postdoctoral with the MRC before working in drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics at Roche and then GSK. After starting a family, Bridget “decided that small children and travel for work were incompatible” so she turned her focus to education; studying a PGCE at Cambridge and starting her teaching career here at Long Road.

“My experience in industry has been a big bonus for teaching chemistry both because I have real world experience of science and because I am used to juggling lots of people and lots of projects with competing priorities.”

Dr Zoe Thorn, Teacher of Chemistry

Zoe has a PhD in Synthetic Organic Chemistry from Imperial College, University of London. She also spent a year at the University of Hannover as part of her undergraduate degree!
I really enjoyed the lab work, as it involved a lot of trial and error to get chemical reactions to happen, and it was very exciting when I made a chemical compound no one else in the world had ever made before! My fellow PhD and postdoctoral students were a great team, and we all worked very long hours together.  I also enjoyed teaching the undergraduates, which is where I got the idea to become a Chemistry teacher.

I still really enjoy organic chemistry as I like the methodical naming and all the different possible chemical reactions, but I have come to appreciate the other branches of chemistry since teaching them. I particularly enjoy electrode potentials, which is the chemistry involved in making batteries, and also complex ions as these provide the coloured pigments used in many paints. What I love about teaching is when students make the connections between different aspects of the course – that “lightbulb” moment, and when they finally realise for themselves that hard work pays off!

I think everyone who is any way interested in a challenge should take Chemistry A level. It’s very hard, but you gain a wide range of very transferable skills, and employers and universities love people who have done chemistry as they know such students will be able to work hard to achieve their potential. The course at Long Road is a brilliant one as it teaches the concepts in context – different topics throughout the course reinforce knowledge learned earlier on, so the students are constantly revising, but it also helps with those all-important connections. There’s also a good range of practical work, and you can even do an EPQ in chemistry if you wish to do more!”

Connor Willmington-Holmes, Chemistry Technician

Connor has a BA and MSc in Natural Sciences (Chemistry) from the University of Cambridge!

What did Connor most enjoy about studying at university? “Planning my own project (synthesising a radiotracer drug for PET scan cancer imaging)”. Connor says that while he is “not a teacher, but I am often in the classroom and I enjoy helping students to grapple with the more challenging concepts in the course.”

Photo: Applied Science students trip to Sizewell Nuclear Plant, 2019. 

Huw Williams, Applied Science Course Team Leader

Huw studied a BSc in Biological Science at the University of Natal in Durban, South Africa and an MSc in Technology of Crop Protection at the University of Reading. He studied his PGCE at Edge Hill and PCEE at Cambridge before achieving a Postgraduate Diploma in Pastoral Theology from St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

“I love the challenge of learning! Currently looking for a new challenge. South Africa for a first degree in biological sciences – studying in game reserves, field trips into the bush for elephant studies in Botswana – Wow! Agriculture at Reading had a very diverse entry from Commonwealth and gave me qualifications to return to Africa.  Reading was (is!) a very well organised university with excellent facilities for agriculture. Theology through Twickenham – includes ethics – very different from science – a different challenge and provides different insights”

What does Huw enjoy most about teaching Applied Science at Long Road? The “variety of teaching (I get to cover all sciences and use my experiences to illustrate the work). The colleagues and students are great” and the “variety of learning and range of opportunities both during the course and after the course – a great place to learn. BTEC Applied Science learning is different from A-level sciences and students can find it a better way to learn and succeed. BTEC Applied Science gives students the skills and confidence to progress to university, apprenticeships (including degree apprenticeships), further education and employment – it is a versatile and academically challenging course opening doors to a huge range of careers.”

Robin Baker, Teacher of Applied Science

Robin has a BSc Applied Chemistry from Portsmouth University.

“I enjoyed the applied aspects of the course, particularly studying corrosion & material science and fuels. I have worked for 9 years in a number of biotech companies in Oxford and Cambridge in the field of chemical information databases.

I love teaching BTEC Applied Science as it puts the theory into practice and provides the students with real-world skills. Prospective students should enrol onto BTEC Applied Science if they want a link to science in their career but don’t necessarily want to work in science directly.”

Johanna Thompson, Teacher of Applied Science and Health and Social Care

Johanna has not only achieved a BSc(joint Hons) Zoology and Psychology from the University of Bristol, but she also has an MSc occupational Psychology from Cardiff University.

“What I enjoyed most about my degree was the opportunity to choose a wide range of courses as part of the joint honours programme. I love teaching on the H&SC and Applied Science courses at Long Road. These applied courses offer an ideal starting point for students who are aiming to go into the care and science professions and want a more practical course which gives them the skills to do so.  I feel a real plus point of our course is the range of expertise amongst the members of the team- of which I am the one who tends to contribute more to the science bit!”