Dr Lesley Howell, Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry
Dr Lesley Howell is a Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutical and Medical Chemistry in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, and also one of the first cohort of Queen Mary Academy Fellows. In her profile, Lesley talks about piloting student facilitated workshops, working on using mixed reality technology for teaching and outreach work, and learning to play the piano.
How long have you worked at Queen Mary?
I have worked at Queen Mary for just over four years. I joined in January 2017. Prior to this, I was a Lecturer in Medicinal Chemistry at the University of East Anglia working in the School of Pharmacy. I am a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and hold the CSciTeach professional qualification from The Royal Society of Chemistry.
You’re taking on a new role as a Queen Mary Academy Fellow, what will you be working on?
My fellowship will focus on the piloting of Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) within the Chemistry Department. However, since starting the fellowship, schools from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences have also expressed an interest in joining the pilot. PLTL is a workshop-based approach to small group teaching where a ‘peer’ in the year above facilitates the workshop. I am interested to see how PLTL may help to foster learning communities at Queen Mary, as well as improve student engagement and lower attainment gaps.
What other key projects are you working on at the moment to improve the student experience?
I am co-leading the Online Communities Work Stream with Dr Patrick McGurk from the School of Business and Management. This is one of several work streams under the Improving Student Engagement Pillar, which is feeding into the Strategy 2030. Our work stream has several themes from piloting PLTL to exploring the transition from school/college into higher education. We are looking at how we may support students during this time so as to ensure new (and existing) students have the opportunity to forge strong and impactful communities during their time with us at Queen Mary.
I am also co-leading a project supported by the Westfield Fund with Gideon Woldeslassie, Student Recruitment and Widening Participation Manager for the Faculty of Science and Engineering, on the use of the HoloLens2 Mixed Reality Technology for both teaching and outreach. The HoloLens2 technology allows participants to view what the headset wearer sees but is supplemented with additional holograms to enhance the experience. We have recently appointed a chemistry undergrad to work with us on the project as a summer intern where we will develop augmented reality guides for pre-lab preparation.
You have also taken a leading role in the delivery of the Chemistry Department’s blended learning provision. Can you tell us more about this role and what it involves?
In May 2020, I became the Blended Learning Lead for the Chemistry Department, with the aim of guiding colleagues through the pandemic-related challenges of delivering chemistry programmes. This role required me to design the Department’s education provision for the 2020/21 academic year as we launched our blended learning delivery. I liaised with other Blended-Learning Leads across the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences and shared best practices. After attending a series of short professional development sessions, I designed and implemented a strategy for the specific delivery of blended-learning for Chemistry. I led departmental meetings, provided models for both asynchronous and synchronous sessions, including templates for QMplus pages and suggestions for novel and innovative assessment. I provided individualised support to colleagues as well as organising and delivering Chemistry specific professional development sessions.
Describe your average day/week.
I am not sure I have an average day at the moment! Every day is different balancing work with my family. I am still predominately working at home although have been back on campus delivering the HoloLens practical chemistry sessions.
What’s the best thing about your job?
That no two days are the same! I enjoy the flexibility and variability of my work. Some days I am teaching, others I am working on scholarship activities or supervising my PhD students. I really value the diversity of projects that I am involved in and the challenges they present.
What do you see as your role in helping the University achieve its Strategy 2030 for education and the student experience?
As mentioned above I am co-leading the Online Learning Communities Work Stream that falls under the improving student engagement pillar. We have a number of pilot projects within the work stream such as PLTL that, should they prove successful, will help the University achieve its Strategy 2030 for education. In addition, I am a member of the Inclusive Curriculum Work Stream led by Janet de Wilde.
What’s your favourite place on any of our campuses?
Canal side on the Mile End Campus in the summer.
If you could tell a prospective student one thing about Queen Mary, what would it be?
How wonderfully diverse and vibrant our campuses are. It never fails to amaze me that once I step through the gates onto the campus how the noise from Mile End Road is virtually non-existent. I am surrounded by green space on the canal side for example, historical artefacts and architecture that are found throughout our campuses, and of course our staff and students!
Do you have any unusual hobbies, pastimes outside of work?
I am learning to play the piano with my daughter. I am currently trying (!) to learn how to play Minuet in C by Mozart.