Tell us about some of your experience in the industry:
My initial degree was a Physics and Astronomy Undergraduate Master’s degree at the University of Sheffield and I graduated from that with a first-class degree. I then worked at the Ministry of Defence for just under two years which was amazing. I got some practical experience of physics type testing which was really good.
I came to UCLan in 2002 to do a Master’s in Forensic Science here which was a research masters. It wasn’t a taught Master’s so instead I took on a one-year research project. My supervisor for that was Alison Jones who is now the executive dean of the Faculty.
After that I got a job at Lancashire Constabulary to do Forensics in their footwear department. There was only two of us so I used to travel around all the major police stations every week and look at the footwear evidence that they’ve recovered from crime scenes. I’d then try to identify what type of shoe, trainer or boot has made the mark. I would also try to match the trainer tread from someone who had just been arrested to a particular tread mark from the crime scene.
I then left that role to take a job in Accident Investigation which married together physics and forensics.
I did that for a few years in a part-time role because I also started a PHD in Chemistry and material science which was recycling plastic so I got a lot of hands on analytical experience. I graduated from my PHD in 2011 carrying on my Accident Investigation role.
I got this job four years ago after starting off as an Associate Lecturer in the foundation course teaching the Physics module before being promoted to lecturer in Forensic Course.
Given the experience that you’ve had why did you decide to go into teaching?
I think I’m good with people and I’m good at communicating. Not because I talk a lot but because I think can build up a good rapport with people. I do like to engage with people and I see the value in giving people opportunities as well as seeing people develop and being able to achieve their goals.
Teaching is that kind of thing but lecturing is different to teaching in schools where you would kind of have to go down the conventional route and gain your teaching qualification first. I did consider that after doing my physics degree because if they were desperate for physics teachers I could have probably have walked into a physics job but I didn’t really want to do that. I really wanted to do research.
I also knew that I wanted to do a PHD even if it took me a few years to get there. By getting a job at University, your teaching experience is rather done the other way around really. Your teaching and experience qualifications come later so since starting here I’ve done my PG certificate in learning and teaching in higher educations.
Especially for the Foundation year, they’re often students who haven’t quite achieved what they needed to get to get onto the first year of a degree so they’re often a bit disappointed. They maybe lack confident but they really want to progress. Seeing them get onto their degree courses and do so well after the foundation year makes me feel great.
What are your views of doing a foundation year?
This course was only set up four years ago but it has proven to be such a good model. It’s been such a successful course because when it was first advertised in 2014 we were expecting about 30 applicants and we got 100. We then got 150 the following year so we’ve been getting sizeable numbers. I think the students see value in a foundation year because of the amount of students that then progress onto doing degrees, most of them at UCLan. The fact we can give them that opportunity and that stepping stone to get onto the degree is fantastic.
What kind of feedback have you had?
We have regular feedback from the course leaders and the teaching teams of the courses that the students’ progress on to which is really useful. We feed into so many different areas so I have to liaise with people in the School of Pharmacy and Biomedical Science, the School of Physical Sciences and Computing, the School of Psychology and the School of Forensics and Applied Sciences.
We want to know how they’re all getting on. If we are not preparing them well enough or some students are struggling then we know we need to do more work with them but we get such good feedback from them.
That means we are pitching it at the right level for undergraduate study. When they finish their foundation year, we want them to be as good as their peers when they come in and have got their A level results and match their knowledge.
As a foundation team, we are supportive and really approachable. There’s no airs and graces, they can come and arrange a 1-on-1 with us and we’ll do what we can. We’ve had fantastic feedback from students with regards to the support that we’ve given them.
For anyone looking at this foundation course, what would be your advice to them?
Definitely look into it! I’m always available if students want any extra information about the course. We really want to see people succeed. We can take on people with experience as well as people who are just looking at it as a gateway onto a degree. It’s a really fantastic and successful route. We’ve also got a very high retention record so the students that start are engaged and they enjoy it so much they complete their course to get on their degree.
10 September 2018