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Current Postgraduate Students


Supervising undergraduate students

Teaching others is the best test of whether you really understand a concept.  As a scientist, the skill of communicating your ideas clearly and precisely is also vitally important.  Whilst effective supervising is hard work and requires a significant commitment of time and energy, the rewards are well worth the effort.  Not only can you expect to be a better chemist yourself, you will see those you teach learn and grow in understanding and confidence.  In addition to the intellectual benefits (students who have supervised are usually well prepared for the fundamental questions that come up in any viva situation), you can also earn a bit of extra money from talking about your subject with engaged and motivated students.

What can I supervise?

The details of all the Chemistry courses, are available on the teaching website.  We teach a huge range of chemistry in this Department and you will almost certainly find something which you will be interested in teaching.  Take a look through the Course Guides for each year (Part IA: 1st year; Part IB: 2nd year; Part II: 3rd year & Part III: 4th year) to see in more detail what you might enjoy the most.

What kind of support is available to me?

There is a section of the teaching website with resources for supervisors, which includes information on available training, a Guide to Supervision, submitting Supervision reports for your students and several useful links which you will need if you become a Supervisor.  In order to access the Superivsor Handouts for courses and model answers to both course and examination questions, you will need to contact Bethan Lewis (bcl27) to request access.  In order to be able to submit Supervision reports, you will need to ask the Tutorial Office at the College for whom you superivse to sort this for you.

Within the Department, we have three dedicated Academic Mentors for those new to supervising and you should not hesitate to get in touch with any of them directly, should you require some support or advice.  They are:

  • Inorganic: Dr Sally Boss (srb39)
  • Organic: Dr Deborah Longbottom (dal28)
  • Physical/Theoretical: Dr James Keeler (jhk10)

Dr Keeler also does a very well-received hour long talk twice in every academic year (normally the start of October and January) on Supervising Undergraduates.  In it, he covers what supervisions are, the role they play in Cambridge teaching and how Supervisors are recruited.  He then goes on to look at how you can prepare for supervising, how you can conduct a supervision, and how to deal with common pitfalls.  Highly recommended if you think you might be interested in Supervising.

How can I become a supervisor?

The simplest way to go about becoming a Supervisor for Part IA or Part IB is to find out who in your College is responsible for organising Supervisions.  If you let them know well in advance which course(s) you are interested in teaching and how many groups of students you would like to take, you will be helping them with the task of organising the supervisions and they will usually be very pleased to hear from you.

For Part II and Part III, supervisions are usually arranged within the Chemistry Department and normally by the course lecturer (if there is more than one, it will be whichever person lectures first in the course).  If you are keen to supervise a particular course, if you contact the course lecturer directly to let them know you are interested in supervising their course, they will usually be pleased to hear from you as this will assist with assiging Supervisors to the students that attend the course.

You can also register your interest in supervising any course offered in our Department: 

This simple page enables you to offer your services as a Supervisor for undergraduate courses in chemistry.  The Teaching Office will pass on the information you provide to College Directors of Studies and others, who are seeking to engage Supervisors, can also look through this database and approach potential Supervisors directly.  The Teaching Office does not assign Supervisors and registering your interest in becoming a Supervisor does not guarantee that you will be called on to supervise so if you are keen, you should also follow the alternative routes described above.

How else can I engage in teaching or outreach?

If you do not have the right background to demonstrate or supervise, you may well be interested in getting involved with the range of outreach events that we hold, the largest of which is the Cambridge Science Week Chemistry Open Day, where you can demonstrate fun and exciting Chemistry to the 1000s of members of the public that come and see us.

Can I formalise my teaching skills?

If you are interested in formalising your teaching experience into a recognised qualification, you might be interested in the Teaching Associates Programme (TAP).  TAP is open to Cambridge researchers and early-career academics (postdocs, early-career college lecturers, PhD students beyond their first year) and is accredited by the Higher Education Academy at Descriptor 1 (Associate).
Read the full course description here - applications are usually accepted between early June and early September via this website.