Director of Academic Quality

+44 (0)131 451 3104
Room 3.08
David Brewster Building
Heriot-Watt University
James Cameron
Roles and responsibilities
  • Chair of Chemistry Teaching Group
  • Chair of PQRS (EPS Teaching Operational group)
  • Chair of Staff-Student Liaison Committee
  • Chair of Chemistry Award, Progression and Assessment Boards
  • UCAS Admissions Tutor for Chemistry
  • Departmental Representative Higher Education Academy
  • Departmental Representative Chemistry Database Service

Chemical Education

After a number of years working with macrocyclic ligands, my main focus is now on how students learn, what encourages or discourages engagement with chemistry, particularly in early university education, and how the whole issue of induction impacts upon student performance and success throughout their undergraduate careers.

1. Induction

Early experiences of university can have a significant impact on the way that students settle into their programme. I am currently interested in exploring innovative methods of induction, both real and virtual, to identify the impact on student performance and ultimate progression.

2. Role of Practical Work in Chemistry

Practical work should be a joy for chemists to do, allowing the demonstration of the synergy between theory and experiment, illuminating the theoretical aspects and removing the dry nature of book-learning. All too often though some students can find experimental work a chore, and treat the subject as effectively a ‘follow the recipe’ exercise. I am interested in trying to identify how practical work could be made of more interest to these students so that the true synergy of theory and experiment are made clear.

3. Virtual Learning Environments

The web has opened up a whole new way of making information and tasks available to students via ‘virtual learning environments’ (VLEs). Although such systems have been around for a number of years, there is still a great deal to be done in developing their use to maximise their impact. Too often VLEs are simply repositories for notes, or used as noticeboards.   Identifying when and how students use such systems, and extending the reach of the materials to encourage more independent learning will make VLEs more than expensive electronic notebooks.