Students name chemistry postgraduate one of Sheffield's top teachers

A postgraduate student in the Department of Chemistry has won an award for her commitment to teaching undergraduate chemistry students in the lab.

Jenna Spencer-BriggsThe Sheffield Academic Awards are run each year by Sheffield Students' Union to celebrate people who have enhanced education and community life at the University of Sheffield.

Jenna Spencer-Briggs came top of the Best Postgraduate Research Student who Teaches category. The Department of Chemistry's Professor Jim Thomas was also nominated for Best Postgraduate Supervisor.

Jenna said: "It feels amazing to win the award. I was nominated for the award by undergraduate students in the department, and it means so much to me that my teaching and demonstrating has been appreciated by them.

"There were four of us on the shortlist for the award and I'm thankful to the panel for recognising and rewarding my hard work."

Alongside her PhD with Professor Simon Jones, Jenna has worked as a graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Chemistry, running laboratory teaching sessions for undergraduate students.

"Before I started I didn’t realise that higher education teaching was a career path, and now it's what I've got my heart set on," Jenna said.

Jenna also did her undergraduate MChem Chemistry degree at the University of Sheffield. Last year, she became one of several postgraduate students in the Department of Chemistry to become a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, the UK's professional body for university teachers.

"Teaching in the labs has had a variety of benefits: explaining laboratory techniques and equipment have helped cement them in my mind, which has helped me approach my own research with a clearer grasp of the fundamentals," she said. "Students often think of questions that you've never thought of which helps my own critical thinking. Teaching large groups of students has definitely boosted my confidence and presentation skills."

Five different people that Jenna works with or has taught nominated her for the Academic Award. One nomination highlighted her use of video to support teaching, as Jenna worked with another PhD student, Dan Jenkinson, to produce an explainer video on how to interpret a NMR spectrum.

Jenna was also celebrated for her work on developing a training programme for demonstrators, and the quality of her feedback and communcation.

One person who nominated Jenna wrote: "Since first year, Jenna has been both approachable and professional to both myself and my colleagues. Fantastic sense of humour who can tailor the learning around your knowledge. A true friend in such a highly pressured environment."