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Leading national education conference held in Department of Chemistry

Posted on 30 August 2017

The Variety in Chemistry Education and Physics Higher Education Conference (ViCEPHEC) is the leading national conference for chemistry and physics education at tertiary level in the UK. This year the conference was held in the Department of Chemistry at the University of York between 23 and 25 August.

ViCEPHEC 2017 attendees

Delegates ranged from academic staff at universities to schoolteachers, outreach officers, laboratory specialists, technicians, students, industrialists and publishers. The event, attended by over 175 delegates, provided opportunities to share best practice within the disciplines of chemistry and physics by discussing cutting edge educational research and practice.

New for 2017 was ‘Labsolutely Fabulous’, chaired by Dr David Pugh, which was an opportunity for conference delegates to present lecture demonstrations, experiments and outreach activities. This addition to the programme complemented the interactive workshops, oral presentations and five minute oral bytes. A poster session at the National STEM Learning Centre provided further opportunities to discuss aspects of teaching and scholarship.

Professor Andy Parsons and Dr Glenn Hurst both gave presentations at the meeting. Andy talked about his online course ‘Explaining Everyday Chemistry’ and the way in which this demystifies organic chemistry to a wide range of different learners. Glenn presented the variety of ways in which, working alongside Louise Summerton, Avtar Matharu and James Clark, he has been embedding Green Chemistry principles into a range of different learning environments – from schools in Brazil to undergraduate labs here in York.

Professor John Holman gave a thought-provoking plenary lecture in which he explored the transition made by students (and himself) between school and university chemistry education. A number of York alumni also came back to the Department and made great contributions to the meeting: Dr Dan Cornwell (ex-Smith group, now Kings College London) described a new introductory ‘sweet’ experiment to spectrophotometry and Dr Russ Kitson (ex-Taylor Group, now University of Warwick) presented a brilliant example of how students can be motivated with monopoly money via ‘game-based learning’, in which they must work in teams to spend their money wisely on analysis in order to determine molecular structure as efficiently as possible.

A highlight of the meeting was the conference dinner held at the National Railway Museum – a spectacular venue, which made a real impression on conference delegates and showed off York at its very best.

Dr Glenn Hurst, Chair of the conference organising committee said: "The many great discussions over dinner and throughout the rest of the meeting attest to the healthy state of education in the physical sciences at university level and the strong sense of community that exists."