Dr Jonathan Charmant
We interviewed Jonathan Charmant in 2017. At that time, he was co-ordinator for the Foundations of Chemistry unit on the International Foundation Programme.
Staff members and course content can change from year to year. For detailed information about the academic year 2018-19, please visit our unit catalogue.
What is your role at the University of Bristol?
I’ve been here a long time – I was a student here originally. I’m a lecturer in chemistry, the admissions tutor for undergraduate chemistry and the widening participation co-ordinator for the faculty.
I’m an inorganic chemist by training, with a research background in X-ray crystallography. This involves shining X-rays at a crystal sample and using the scattering pattern to work out what’s inside – where the atoms are and how the molecules are arranged. Effectively you’re taking a photo. This helps characterise new substances.
How are you involved with the International Foundation Programme?
When International Foundation Programme students want to progress to a chemistry degree, I’m involved in the admissions process. I’m also the co-ordinator for the Foundations of Chemistry unit on the programme. This unit equips students with all the chemistry knowledge they need for a degree in chemistry or a whole suite of other subjects.
The programme brings students up to the standard of someone who has done A-levels. It helps them to meet the admissions requirements for our chemistry course and other similar degree courses.
What’s it like teaching on the International Foundation Programme?
The idea is that students direct my classes and seminars to a certain extent. I set them reading and exercises before the class, and they suggest things they’d like to know more about or understand better. These are not formal lectures, but a much more reactive teaching situation. That’s the bit I’m involved with – there are also tutorials run by postgraduate students.
Do you see students develop during the International Foundation Programme?
During the year, I see students start to understand how to become more active in their learning and how to adapt to the style of learning – which prepares them well for a degree.
At first, International Foundation Programme students think it is all about learning the answers to every single question that could possibly be asked. They want to know what the answer is, not why the answer is what it is. They start off very assessment-focussed as opposed to learning-focussed, but the two things need to go together. I see that attitude change over the course of the year.
What would you say to a prospective student?
From a chemistry point of view, there are huge advantages to doing a foundation programme rather than A-levels. Firstly, in adapting to the university way of learning. Secondly, in the facilities available, which you’re just not going to get at a school or college.
Our laboratories are some of the best in the world for chemistry. You will also start to get access to academics who are right at the top of their game. In terms of research standing in the UK, our chemistry department is indisputably in the top five.