The story I have written as it appeared on the Royal Society of Chemistry website:
The path to CChem
My 175 minutes
Not only do I prepare the day-to-day practical experiments, make new pieces of apparatus and improve scientific equipment but also introduce novel and spectacular but safe demonstrations. Concrete examples of applications in everyday life (e.g. the thermite reaction) grabs the student’s and general public’s attention. My motivation is to capture their interest, engage with them and encourage asking questions, challenge preconceived ideas and enrich their understanding of the topic. My chemist friend, Lee Marek, an inspirational chemistry teacher and master of chemistry demonstrations from the University of Illinois, Chicago, USA always says that if one picture is better than one thousand words then one live demonstration is better than a thousand pictures whether inside a lab or on stage.
Role models like him, my secondary Chemistry teacher Silvia Orti, Prof Martyn Poliakoff, Andrew Szydlo, Prof Andrea Sella and many many more have always encouraged me, supported me and inspired me to become the chemist I am today. They infected me with their enthusiasm and ignited my passion to promote the value of chemistry in everyday life and I’ve been trying to do so in my own way. This year public engagement activities such as burning a pencil by passing 12 V through it, performing alchemy by transforming copper pennies to silver and then gold, making huge beautiful silver mirror bottles, encapsulating chemical elements in clear resin blocks and preparing a stained glass display using gold and silver nanoparticles; showed me that my fascination with chemistry never ends and goes beyond 175 minutes. It was rewarding to see both the young and adults enjoying activities; their eyes full of wonder following, in particular the story of medieval artisans using nanotechnology without even realising it, and making the connections with their applications.
Unfortunately, Science technicians have always struggled with recognition for their work and my story is no exception. Some people still consider technicians ‘’to be on the same level as cleaners – essential but expendable and interchangeable’’ as described by the September 2016 UK School Science Technician Survey. As a result, I took it upon myself to make the very best of building up my role and raising awareness of school science technicians by delivering lecture demonstrations (video examples in my YouTube channel), performing general school assemblies and volunteering and participating in outreach events for local schools and in many different public events from the Royal Institution to the Wellcome Trust and the Institute of Making, University College London. Recently, by promoting Technicians Make it Happen (a campaign initiated by Gatsby), an ensemble of stories and photos exhibiting the role and diversity of technicians nationwide was launched online, on social media and at The Mall Galleries in London.
The path to CChem
All the years of hard work were recognised when I was awarded CChem early in September this year, and soon to be awarded Chartered Scientist status. I’m immensely honoured and proud and has provided me with the best news I have received in a very long time.
I would like to recommend other technicians that they too can follow a path of professional recognition providing possible benefits and furthering their careers.
At the time of writing, I’m finalising the details for my next big event dedicating 175 minutes for chemistry. The Science and Art Twilight Networking event will take place on 4 November at the RSC in London and I’ll be demonstrating ‘artistry in the sky’ and the fascination we have with fire and colours with audience participation. Expect a ‘boom’ or two in your hand and a preview of Bonfire Night. Hope you can join us.