Our graduates Dr Claire Dunn, PGDE Secondary Chemistry with Science

Tell us a little bit about your background...
I was born in Glasgow where I undertook a degree in biochemistry / microbiology at Strathclyde university. My first post degree job was within the NHS working on a project to look at the effectiveness of the Meningococcal vaccine. I then studied for a PhD at Glasgow Vet school on a project looking at improving Salmonella typhi vaccines. Following a career break I returned to Strathclyde university where I was employed as a post-doctoral researcher investigating oral biopharmaceuticals.

What inspired you to become a teacher?
While working at Strathclyde University I had a lot of experience working with young adults which I enjoyed. I have been working as a stem ambassador for 8 years and an MCR mentor for four years which both showed me the positive impact that can be had within schools. My role with MCR in particular showed me the impact a positive role model can have for pupils who have experienced disadvantage in their life. This led to my interest in education at the secondary school stages which was further enhanced through conversations with my MCR mentee who opened my eyes to the experiences of pupils at secondary school.

What is it that piques your interest in chemistry?
My research background has primarily focused on disease prevention and treatment with more recent research working on biopharmaceuticals and the effect of biopharmaceuticals within the paediatric age group. Many current medicines are either not approved for paediatric groups or the expected responses within this category are poorly understood. Enhancing our knowledge of understanding in this area was an area I enjoyed working in.

Why did you select the University of Strathclyde to study the PGDE?
As I was working within Strathclyde University at the time it was an obvious first choice for me.

Did you have any memorable moments from your placement experiences?
The strength of relationships developed with both staff and pupils across both placements surprised me with regard to how quickly bonds can be made within departments. I was genuinely sad to leave each placement which I hadn’t anticipated in advance.

What would be your advice for people considering taking the PGDE course at Strathclyde?
The PGDE course at Strathclyde is one I would thoroughly recommend. I found the modules enjoyable and the pace of learning made me feel both challenged and enthused in equal manner.

How have you adapted to changes in the teaching environment due to COVID?
While COVID has undoubtedly brought a lot of upheaval and change within the teaching environment there are a wealth of opportunities that COVID has enhanced such as a greater development of digital technology within schools, including use of apps and software within classrooms. Home learning implementation has meant there are resources developed that allow pupils to still be able to access material when not within the school building and there has been a huge development in online resources such as Scholar, and WestOS which are very useful revision tools which can also help pupils plug any gaps in their learning.  Availability of free simulation software within the sciences has proved very useful for helping pupils visualise content, for example Phet SIMS provide free simulation software which covers many biology, physics and chemistry topics relevant at both BGE and senior stages.

Have you/do you plan to undertake any professional development courses/opportunities?
I regularly attend RSC Teach CPD sessions as I find those both informative and relevant to modern day teaching in the classroom. They have excellent resources for teaching many topics within the Chemistry classroom. I have undergone SSERC approved training and am now a verified Young Stem Leader Assessor Tutor which means I can support and accredit Young Stem Leaders within my school. I continue to work as a Stem Ambassador and am also still active in my role as an MCR mentor.

Any final points, or words of wisdom?
Moving into secondary school teaching is the best decision I have made career wise however it is very important to be conscious of your work life balance. It can be hard to switch off from school life and I often worry about my pupils after I leave the building. Make sure to take time out from school and maintain hobbies and interests outside of the workplace.