FRSC CChem PGCE
Head of Chemistry at The College of Richard Collyer
I came from Horsham High School for Girls, which became Tanbridge House School, and studied A Levels in Maths with Mechanics, Physics and Chemistry and AS Level General Studies at Collyer’s from 1980-1982.
I have really fond memories of my time here and the connections I made with my peers are as evident today, primarily through LinkedIn, as they were 40 years ago. I enjoyed all my subjects, especially Chemistry, and that helped me determine the path I would take directly after Collyer’s and beyond. It was a difficult time as the college was still in transition from a boy’s grammar school to a sixth form college, but the teachers were supportive, kind and wanted me to reach my full potential.
I moved onto CIBA, which became Novartis, and undertook a 5-year apprenticeship and completed my GRSC, equivalent to a 2:1 BSc Honours degree in Chemistry. For nearly 32 years I was a Medicinal Chemist and feel especially blessed to have worked for a pharmaceutical company that used Science based innovation to address society’s most challenging health care issues. Within that realm I helped discover and develop syntheses for breakthrough treatments for thrombosis, breast cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Over that time, I contributed to over 30 patents and papers, and I feel fortunate to have been part of some great multidisciplinary teams which created block busters such as Indicaterol, marketed as Onbrez in a Breezhaler device for airflow obstruction in the lungs. I helped improve and extend people’s lives. Throughout those years I also spent valuable time on outreach initiatives from primary schools to sixth form colleges, inspiring the awe and wonder of Science and took pleasure in mentoring interns and peers.
I then decided to train to teach and have not looked back. I have had the chance to work with the county’s most vulnerable students, who have a diverse set of educational needs, and those who are ‘gifted and talented.’ I am now teaching the subject I have always felt most passionate about, Chemistry. Looking back over the last 3 years and forward too I have an incredible and exciting opportunity to help shape a future generation of Scientists. I love my job and I enjoy watching students grow and develop, becoming creative whilst developing a number of skills including teamwork, analytical thinking, time management and problem solving. If you are considering a career in teaching, then subject knowledge is key. Some universities do offer subject knowledge enhancement courses prior to a PGCE. Other qualities include resilience, empathy and being an effective communicator.
In December 2020 I applied for and was granted Fellowship status of The Royal Society of Chemistry, in recognition of my Chemistry contributions to industry as well as shaping Chemists of the future. An incredible achievement of which I and my family are especially proud. My mother was an economic migrant from Italy and my father a Polish refugee after the Second World War. They came here independently for a better life for themselves and the children they may have.
What next Diana? Continue to develop my role here and always be thinking of ways to make a student’s experience better and continue to reach out to our local community, encouraging even more secondary students to take up Chemistry at A level, as they realise the wealth of opportunities that can be afforded to them if they make that one decision!