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Personal profile

Scholarly biography

Dr Alison Willows is a Principal Lecturer in Analytical Chemistry and Digital Learning Lead for the School of Applied Science. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. and Senior Fellow of HEA. Her research interests lie in the development of stand-alone electrochemical sensors for marine habitat monitoring and environmental analysis. She also has a keen interest in the role of citizen science for education and environmental data gathering.

She is affiliated to the Applied Chemical Sciences Research and Enterprise Group, the Centre for Aquatic Environments and the Centre for Earth Observation Science at the University of Brighton

Approach to teaching

My area of expertise is analytical and environmental chemistry and I engage with students at all levels within these areas. I believe in giving students the tools they need for independent learning. My role is not as a teacher, these present information for a student to remember and this information is often quickly forgotten. I provide the skills and framework for the students to independently research and gain knowledge. This starts from a very early stage when the students enter the university and they become responsible for their own learning using our experts as guides. They will utilise technology as well as the more traditional textbooks and lectures. I use current research interactively within my lectures to get the students to understand the concepts and topics they need, seeing the applications really helps with understanding. By the time they leave I am confident they have all the skills needed to continue with their lifelong education. The success of this approach shows in our graduates and the feedback we gain from their employers.

Research interests

My main interests lie in the development of electrochemical sensors for environmental monitoring and the role of practical science for education at all ages.

Monitoring in the field is fraught with issues and often limited to certain compounds or concentration levels. I believe the key to worthwhile environmental protection and regulation starts with the ability to measure compounds of interest accurately and with low enough limits of detection. Too many times legislation is set by the limits of technology. My ethos is to keep analysis simple, cheap and accessible to all whilst maintaining the quality of the techniques.

Low concentration metal pollution has historically been a difficult area for field measurements resulting in only higher concentrations being able to be measured or samples having to be transported and analysed in laboratories. Many of the areas where monitoring is necessary are in remote or poorer areas in the world making laboratory analysis difficult. My research aims to develop sensors which can be used in the field with zero or minimal sample preparation but still obtain the trace level concentration measurements required for pollutants such as metals.

My belief is that education from an early age sets the attitude of a person to the environment they live in. By educating children about environmental issues in their immediate vicinity they will become more aware and considerate of the greater issues of the world. Children learn best by doing and as such I am currently developing a series of experiments to allow children to make real measurements of their local environment allowing them to discuss pollution issues and conservation measures. This project is developing through undergraduate research and so serving a double education role with that of the school children and of our undergraduates here at Brighton.


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