Associate Professor Allan Blackman from the University of Otago is our in house chemist. He’ll be answering your questions about all things chemical so if you have something you’ve always wondered about email us here
I’m Dunedin-born-and-bred, and obtained my appreciation of chemistry in particular, and science in general, as a result of several inspirational teachers at North East Valley Normal, Dunedin North Intermediate, and Otago Boys’ High School. I obtained a B.Sc(Hons) degree and Ph.D at the University of Otago, and did Postdoctoral study at Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA. I have also spent time at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis MN, USA (1 year), the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia (6 months) and Joseph Fourier University, Grenoble, France (6 months).
The work of an academic is broadly divided into three parts, namely teaching, research and administration/service. I teach at all levels from first year to postgraduate, in both lectures and laboratories. The lecture classes range in size from 15 to 550, while lab classes contain anywhere up to 36 students. My research is carried out predominantly by research students in my group, who are Ph.D, M.Sc or final year undergraduate students. I come up with research ideas which are then studied and amplified by my students. Results of these studies are published in international chemistry journals based predominantly in the USA or Europe.
Administration/service involves being on committees which assist the day-to-day running of the University, plus service to the community where possible.
A typical day at work would consist of some teaching, either in a lecture or a laboratory, consultation with my students about their research, possibly working on writing a manuscript, and, if I’m really lucky, getting into the laboratory myself and doing some research.
I had generally been interested in Science from primary school, but I recall my 7th form (that’s Year 13 to you now) chemistry teacher really igniting my passion for the subject. And then, at University, I had my first opportunity to engage in chemistry research, and the rest is history …
Mention the word ‘chemistry’ to nearly anyone and they’ll generally come up with the response ‘that’s really hard’ or ‘I hated that at school’ or suchlike. The study of chemistry is the study of the stuff of which the universe is constructed, and you can’t get much more exciting than that! The thrill you get when you make a new molecule that has never existed on Earth before never diminishes. Being able to manipulate matter on an atomic scale and getting it to do what you want it to do is pretty cool.
If you are passionate about it the subject, which most scientists are, a career in science is incredibly satisfying – you go to work every day to do something you enjoy, which I’m not sure many people can truthfully say. The job prospects in Chemistry are excellent and our graduates go on to get jobs all around the world in a large number of different fields. And in my job, getting to teach and enthuse students about Chemistry is extremely rewarding.