Here comes the chemistry….regional coordinator appointed

Heidi Dobbs, the new RSC regional coordinator
31 Oct 2011 14:42:08.350
PA 337/11

A science champion who will work to promote the value of studying chemistry — and open people’s eyes to the impact it has on the world around us — has taken up a new post based at The University of Nottingham.

Heidi Dobbs has recently been appointed regional co-ordinator for the Midlands by the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) to support the society’s activities in the region and raise the profile of the wide range of educational resources it offers.

Heidi said: “My job title is co-ordinator but I think of myself as of a chemistry ‘fixer’. My role is all about developing networks and providing resources to, and links between people with a passion for Chemistry education — whether they are teachers, students, academics or professional scientists from industry.”
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The Royal Society of Chemistry is Europe’s leading organisation for the advancement of the chemical sciences and they offer a wide range of educational resources and chemistry-based events and activities, many of which are free to access.

Her new role will see her drawing on a lifelong passion for science which started, somewhat ironically, when she fainted during a physics lesson at school. The chemistry preparatory room where she was taken to recover was little more than a store cupboard but to Heidi, with its shelves laden with row after row of bottles, jars and unidentifiable yet intriguing objects, it was an Aladdin’s cave. People say there is a lightning strike moment that sparks a passion in a subject — that was mine.”

She left university with a masters degree in chemistry before going to work in the City as a management consultant for the pharmaceutical industry. After leaving to work as a freelance for a couple of years, she followed her desire to make more use of her expertise in chemistry by retraining to teach the subject to secondary school pupils and, later, to students on the foundation course at The University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science. “If anyone had ever told me that I would one day be teaching science I would have laughed in their face but I absolutely loved it — and having free reign over my own preparatory room!”

However, when the RSC announced its intention to employ a regional coordinator to promote its activities, Heidi jumped at the chance. “When the RSC role came up, I knew it was my opportunity to show many more people what Chemistry has to offer and hopefully cause some ‘lightning strikes’ of my own.”

“Put simply chemistry has a part to play in every aspect of the world around us — everything from the food that we eat to the latest technologies we use to work and play. More than that, as a discipline, it can offer a wide range of transferable skills which are extremely attractive to employers and can help to further careers, including logical thinking, problem solving, numeracy and practical ability.”

One of Heidi’s key tasks in her new role will be to take the excellent outreach work already being done by universities in the East Midlands and promote ‘best practice’ across the whole of the region which also includes Birmingham, North Staffordshire and the West Midlands.

The University of Nottingham’s School of Chemistry leads a wide range of science communication activities designed to promote the subject to children, potential university students and to the wider public more generally.

The Periodic Table of Videos project, which features short videos on all 118 elements of the Periodic Table, has attracted more than 17 million hits on the web and made a YouTube star of Nottingham Professor of Chemistry, Martyn Poliakoff.

Activities organised by the department this year have included a series of free public lectures to mark International Year of Chemistry 2011 on subjects including whether chemistry can be ‘green’, astrochemistry and the chemistry of food.

While funded by the RSC, Heidi is employed by The University of Nottingham and will spend one-fifth of her time working in a hands-on role helping to organise its chemistry outreach activities and supporting the University’s Public Awareness Scientist Dr Sam Tang.

Dr Tang said: “I am delighted to be working alongside someone with such passion and enthusiasm for chemistry and who will also encourage and facilitate communication between universities and organisations in order to deliver collaborative outreach events and share best practice. Heidi’s teaching experience will be invaluable in supporting our existing activities and we will actively seek her input when it comes to developing new projects. This is also a great opportunity for Nottingham to continue and strengthen our links with the RSC, and promote the chemical sciences to school children and the public.”

Anyone interested in organising an RSC activity can contact Heidi on (0)115 951 3287 or by email at Further details of the resources offered by the RSC can be found on the web at

— Ends —

The International Year of Chemistry public lectures continue on November 10 with Simon Puttick on Nuclear Magnetic Resonance: Structure Determination from Buckyballs to Brains! and on December 15 with Dr June McCombie on Gastronomy and Molecules: Would you let a Chemist
Cook your Christmas Dinner? No admission charge and no need to book. Lectures take place at Lecture Theatre X1 at the School of Chemistry on University Park.

A Thunder and Lightning demonstration by Dr Pete Licence and Jim Gamble in the School of Chemistry will also take place on Wednesday November 2 at 7pm to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry. Open to the public and free of charge, no booking is required but seating is limited and allocated on a first come, first served basis. Please note, the nature and content of the lecture makes it unsuitable for children aged under 7 years old.

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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia. Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fund-raising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. For more details, visit:

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

More news from the University at:


Story credits

More information is available from Heidi Dobbs on +44 (0)115 951 3287,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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