Demystifying what Chemistry postgrads do

Recently a group of undergraduates got to try their lab coats on for size in the inaugural Chemistry Research Buddy Week. Dr Sarah Masters reflects on what made it so successful.

We worked with ChemSoc President, Nic Bason, to give students the opportunity to find out what Chemistry postgrads do, how they do it and why they take the research steps they do. Our intention was to demystify the process and open eyes to the possibilities that exist in research.

During the week, the undergrads spent part of, or a whole day, shadowing a postgrad in the Department of Chemistry to see what they do in their day-to-day research life. Not only were they planning and doing experiments, analysing the results, and trying to work out what it all meant, but they also got involved in outreach activities that happened to be running that week, and checked out the tea room.

A total of 27 undergraduate students took part with 18 postgrads (from 400L to PhD) involved as buddies. Chemical specialties ranged from environmental science through organic and inorganic synthesis to chemical modelling and mathematical applications. In general, the undergraduate students spent between 4 to 7 hours shadowing their research buddy, participating in the research labs, group meetings, and seminars, as well as coming to the communal tea room for lunch and other breaks.

Reports from the undergraduate students indicate that they really enjoyed the opportunity to be part of the department, to find out more about what postgraduate study means and to talk first-hand with students engaged in Honours, Masters and Doctoral study. Many indicated that it had helped to clarify their thinking about postgraduate study in Chemistry, and that they had enjoyed it so much that they would like more opportunities to take part, with several buddy weeks a year! The postgraduate students echoed this sentiment, with lots of positive ideas about how to take the initiative forward to 2017 and beyond.

Sarah Masters