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From undergraduate student to NTF; a journey of inspiration and mentorship

21 Dec 2021 | Dr Glenn Hurst Dr Glenn Hurst, Associate Professor of chemistry education at the University of York, was awarded a 2021 National Teaching Fellowship (NTF) at the age of 31. Glenn shared his journey and approach

It is a real honour to have received such a prestigious award as the 2021 National Teaching Fellowship. I have always loved teaching even from a young age and it is such a privilege to be able to enthuse and excite the next generation about chemistry, and more specifically green chemistry, so that the scientists, engineers, and policymakers of tomorrow have the knowledge and skills to propel us towards a more sustainable future.

I was very lucky that I was afforded the opportunity to develop resources to teach during my time as an undergraduate student. Specifically, I was awarded a summer internship with Christoph Salzmann (who as part of a team at University College London has recently won one of the inaugural Horizon Prizes for Education via the Royal Society of Chemistry) to develop a new undergraduate laboratory experiment to help my peers in lower years contextualise course content relating to rheology. It was an amazing experience to work alongside Christoph and learn from him to produce an experiment that would be implemented to support students learn such a challenging area of chemistry. We were fortunate enough to publish this work in the Journal of Chemical Education, my first education-focused paper published in a peer-reviewed journal.

During my PhD at Newcastle University, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to train to become a Graduate Teaching Assistant. As part of the training, I was deeply inspired by Alan Mortiboys’ emotionally intelligent approach to teaching and learning, something that has and will always be an integral part of my practice as an instructor. I have not had the pleasure of seeing Alan since meeting in 2012 though I have a lot to thank him for. It was during this training course (where I gained AFHEA status) coupled with my experience of teaching as a GTA that confirmed to me that teaching in higher education was for me. While acting as a GTA, I investigated more discipline-based educational research (chemistry and chemical engineering in my case) and came across the work of Dave Smith at the University of York through him being awarded an NTF in 2013. I liked how, through reviewing his published work in education, Dave created such a brilliant environment to promote active learning within Chemistry. I reflected on how I could follow his example and have an impact in my role as a GTA. Fortunately, this wasn’t the end of my story of learning from Dave as in 2014 an associate lectureship role at the University of York was advertised with specific emphasis on providing learning and teaching within organic and biological chemistry for the recently established Natural Sciences programme. Dave interviewed me as part of a panel for this role and would go on to be my line manager during the early years at York.

What quickly became apparent in me being part of ‘Team Chemistry’ at the University of York was that Dave was one of several role models and mentors that I have been lucky enough to work with. Andy Parsons (NTF, 2018) also worked very closely with me as part of coordinating the contribution that Chemistry plays in Natural Sciences programmes at York. As well as programme design and delivery, I learned a lot from Andy relating to using technology-enhanced learning to teach chemistry. Andy recently won one of the other team-based Horizon Prizes for Education owing to his work in developing an innovative free online course to aid the transition to study chemistry at university, which has attracted over 23,000 learners from around 150 countries since 2017. Indeed, it was a privilege to have worked with Andy to co-develop a new game-based mobile application, Organic Fanatic, to support students learning the structure and reactivity of organic compounds. Such vast local experience from two NTFs at Chemistry at York has no doubt been hugely beneficial when considering my own continuing professional development.

I loved every part of my role at Chemistry at York, and it was around 2016 that my line manager at the time, Victor Chechik, asked me, ‘What do you want to be known for?’. At that point, I don’t think I had a clear answer. I did know that connecting my practice to research at York was a priority for me and it was through this desire that I met James Clark, the director of the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence (GCCE) at York. Through working with the marvellous team constituting the GCCE, I have developed a real passion for teaching green and sustainable chemistry at all levels. It became clear that my vision is for students to be effective, influential, and fulfilled scholars who can work in interdisciplinary teams to solve grand challenges as outlined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. I want students to synthesise and apply diverse knowledge and skills that will not only equip them to achieve within their programmes of study, but also allow them to succeed in their endeavours after university. I accomplish this by designing programmes, modules, and sessions, allowing students to achieve a deeper understanding of subject matter though utilising a ‘systems thinking’ approach to learning, helping students to identify connections across disciplines. This is a research-led and strongly contextualised methodology, which engages students with the subject matter. Indeed, green chemistry, and more broadly, sustainability, lends themselves well to a systems-based approach to learning.

Presently, I am on the leadership team for a highly collaborative project with $250,000 funding from the Argosy Foundation to establish ‘The Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community’ (GCTLC). The GCTLC, which is set to officially launch in 2023, will serve as a central online networking hub where users from across the world (including educators from primary school through to higher education, students, and industry stakeholders) can share resources, collaborate, receive mentorship, and connect with one another. The potential to truly transform green chemistry education by supporting students and instructors in this way is incredibly exciting! I am also privileged to be acting as an expert for the United Nations where we are collaborating to produce a framework manual on global green chemistry education - some of the interventions showcased were developed by our students at York!

What is very clear to me is that having role models and mentors has had a huge impact on my development as an instructor. I feel very privileged to work in such a diverse and collaborative place that is Chemistry at York, where, following receiving an NTF, we now have 3 prize-winners as part of ‘Team Chemistry’. Here’s to many more!

Christoph Salzmann Horizon Prize:

Andy Parsons Horizon Prize:

Glenn Hurst was appointed Associate Lecturer in Chemistry at the University of York in 2014, promoted to Assistant Professor in 2017 and to Associate Professor in 2020 where he works in the Green Chemistry Centre of Excellence. His research interests lie within chemistry education, specialising in systems-thinking approaches to teaching.

Nominations for the National Teaching Fellowship Scheme 2022 are open

The National Teaching Fellowship Scheme (NTFS) recognises, rewards and celebrates individuals who have made an outstanding impact on student outcomes and the teaching profession. 

All UK higher education providers, who are members of Advance HE, may nominate up to three members of staff who teach and/or support learning in higher education. 

The NTFS Nomination resources for 2022 are available here.

Institutional nominations are made via the Advance HE VLE. If you are a UK Advance HE member institution (Full or Affiliate member) and have not received details of the nomination process, please contact the Awards team for further information (

NTFS nominations close at noon on 9 March 2022.

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