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January/February 2019

Are we preparing our chemistry undergraduates for career success?

How can we ensure chemistry graduates are best prepared to gain employment and succeed at work? Research shows that in addition to their scientific knowledge, graduates will need to both possess and be able to articulate a wide range of ‘generic’ skills. These include communication, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking, organisational, numeracy, adaptability, independent learning, computer/IT, commercial awareness and creativity/innovation. However, do chemistry students think they are gaining these skills at university and do they recognise their importance? Last year, research at Monash University and University of Warwick (UK) asked almost 1000 chemistry undergraduates, through open-ended questions, which skills they’ve developed during their degree and that employers are seeking (Hill M.A., Overton T.L., Thompson C.D., Kitson R.R.A., Coppo P. Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 2018,  doi: 10.1039/C8RP00105G). On average, students identified three skills from among laboratory, communication, thinking/problem-solving, organisational/time management and teamwork, as both developed and valued by employers. However, they were unlikely to name any other skills. The researchers concluded that there was a need for better communication to chemistry undergraduates about the wide range of skills they are developing during their degree and/or to incorporate more skill-rich activities in the curriculum.

Compiled by Reyne Pullen MRACI CChem ( This section showcases exciting chemistry education research carried out primarily in Australia. RACI members whose recent work has been published in prominent chemistry education journals (e.g. Chem. Educ. Res. Pract., J. Chem. Educ., J. Res. Sci. Teach.) are encouraged to contribute general summaries, of no more than 200 words, and an image to Reyne.

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