How did you become involved in this book?
I applied for a summer placement with Nimesh because I knew he was in to chemical education. At the time I was thinking about a career in academia and I knew that a large part of that is teaching – and that was something that I enjoyed a lot, having done private tuition and mentoring on the side, and I've always found that very rewarding. So as a project it suited me really well.
I wasn't expecting it to be a book – it was just advertised as a project developing methods for undergraduate teaching, and when he said I was going to be publishing a book I was well excited!
What was your role in the book?
My main job was to be the student voice, because they wanted it to be different to other textbooks in that it's student-led. So I wrote bits and so on, and there was a lot of floating ideas past me – saying “as a student, how would this work best?”
At the time I was also developing worksheets that could be used for teaching and running these past students in a liaison-type role, bridging the gap between the academic and the student. This role was about structure and ways of conceptualising things that then would be implemented in the undergraduate course. So while not directly for the book this gave me more insight into the mistakes that current students may make, how they think about the problems and how bad habits can be unlearned.
How did you find it?
It felt really different, because I had gone from very technical stuff to suddenly taking a step back into first year. In a way, it was quite a relief to think in a different way at the time, because I had just finished my third year exams, which is a really intense period. So to have a summer placement still doing chemistry, which I enjoy, but not knuckling down doing complex stuff was really nice.
I’m still surprised that I’m in this project, to be honest, it’s all a bit surreal!
Who is the book for?
Definitely the younger students – first years, second years possibly even those between first year and A-Levels about to start university. It really is the foundation, the core topics of stereochemistry. Actually, if I were during my fourth year or third year, I would probably look back at it and use it to refresh my memory on how to get to a certain level so that I can then broaden my knowledge.
How is it different from other textbooks?
It's much smaller… The textbooks that they gave us at the start of my undergrad you couldn't carry in your backpack! They were 400 or 500 pages, whereas this I think is less than 100. The theme of the student voice is very different as well, and comes through strongly – it’s basic without being basic, if that makes sense. It’s stripped back to the core things you need to know – none of the fluff.
If I had this when I was doing my undergraduate degree I genuinely believe I would have found it a lot easier, because you’re not always taught the core baseline stuff properly. It’s also more familiar to how things were at school, which had a bit more structure and back-and-forth – this book is sort of designed to be like almost like being in a seminar or a discussion group. With textbooks like this you can always check and make sure you understand topics before moving on more in-depth.