University of Pretoria lecturer honoured with South African Chemical Institute’s 2022

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University of Pretoria (UP) chemistry lecturer and early-career researcher Dr Christine Mundy was recently awarded the South African Chemical Institute’s 2022 medal for Chemical Education for her contribution as a researcher in the field.

“Receiving this award means more visibility for me as an academic,” says Dr Mundy, who is a lecturer for the Bachelor of Science Extended Curriculum Programmes at UP’s Mamelodi Campus.

“It also serves as recognition of the quality of research that we produce as the Department of Chemistry at UP. This medal has motivated me to think about going for a National Research Foundation rating within the next year. It has also made me confident as a supervisor – I am more assured that I am producing quality research, which reassures my students as well.”

She completed her doctoral studies in tertiary chemical education research at the University. Her research seeks to make chemistry meaningful for students who are at beginner level. As such, she has introduced innovative teaching methods to inspire meaningful cognitive and affective learning in the chemistry module.

“In my teaching, I am enthusiastic and compassionate,” she says. “My main goal is to meet the students where they are, before taking them on a journey of becoming informed citizens and ethical scientists. These extended programmes require excellence. To get the most out of students and to unlock learning for them that was previously out of their reach, you have to go the extra mile as a lecturer.”

Dr Mundy has also refined a low-cost spectroscope, a device that students can use to visualise the emission of light. In her research thesis – titled ‘Addressing barriers to understanding emissions spectroscopy on novice chemistry students’ – she used cognitive load theory and cutting-edge, design-based research to understand how processing occurs in the minds of learners.

She is acutely aware of her position as a woman who is making an impact in science, and encourages women and girls to explore the field and all the opportunities it has to offer.

“You do not have to be predefined,” she says. “You can let yourself grow at university level.”

In light of the International Day for Women and Girls in Science, which is observed annually on 11 February, Dr Mundy has the following to say: “It is important that more women enter into science and engineering spaces. Women have a different perspective to men – having women’s voices in science and engineering will take the industries further and make them more advanced. While it will be a difficult transition, it is definitely needed.”