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Open University academic wins prestigious Royal Society of Chemistry Education Prize

Michael Seery
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Michael Seery of the School of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences at The Open University (@OpenUniversity) has been named the winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Nyholm Prize for Education.

Nominated by peers, Professor Seery was chosen by the RSC’s prestigious panel of judges as one of the most inspirational, innovative and dedicated people in education.

Having recently joined The Open University as a Staff Tutor (and previously Professor of Chemistry Education at The University of Edinburgh), Michael becomes one of the first winners of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s expanded Excellence in Education Prizes, following the biggest overhaul of its recognition portfolio in its history.

After receiving the prize, Professor Seery said:

“I am very honoured to receive the Nyholm Prize. The list of names of previous awardees includes many who have had enormous and direct influence on my career and my research, so it feels a little dizzying to be included among them now. It demonstrates how wonderfully supportive and collaborative our academic community is in chemistry education.

“Winning the Nyholm Prize for work in laboratory education is fantastic recognition of the importance of this in our chemistry curricula. I’m very grateful to those I have worked with on this research over the course of my career.”

Laboratory work is an integral part of chemistry, but there is a lot of evidence that suggests that many approaches in laboratory teaching do not make for meaningful learning. Professor Seery’s work has explored how to design laboratory activities that fit into an overall approach, undertaken by students throughout their studies, which progressively develops students’ technical capabilities, ability to design experiments, and develop scientific thinking skills.

Eleanor Crabb, Head of the School of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences, noted:

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“Our congratulations go to Michael on winning this prestigious award in recognition of his impactful work in the area of laboratory education. Having only recently started at the OU, we are looking forward to working with Michael in the delivery of remote experiments via our OpenSTEM laboratories.”

Dr Helen Pain, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said:

“Educators are some of the most important people in the sciences, nurturing and inspiring the next generation of talent who ultimately will help us further advance understanding of the world around us and solve some of the immense challenges facing the world today and tomorrow.

“Over the past two years, educators have had to deal with circumstances unlike anything we have seen in living memory; with remote teaching and lack of access to equipment due to COVID restrictions making the sciences a particularly tricky subject to teach. What we have seen is resilience and brilliance – and our winners stand high in a particularly inspiring field of nominees.

“Professor Seery has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to chemistry education, and it is our honour to celebrate their considerable contribution.”

The Excellence in Education Prizes celebrate inspirational, innovative, and dedicated people working in primary, secondary, further education and higher education – including teachers, technicians and more. These prizes recognise a wide range of skills – from curriculum design to effective teaching, and from personal development to working culture. This category includes specific prizes for teams and for those in the early stages of their career.

The Royal Society of Chemistry’s prizes has recognised excellence in the chemical sciences for more than 150 years. In 2019, the organisation announced the biggest overhaul of this portfolio in its history, designed to better reflect modern scientific work and culture.

For more information about the RSC’s prizes portfolio, visit rsc.li/prizes.

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