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Patricia Forbes

Senior Lecturer, University of Pretoria, South Africa
Country of Birth: South Africa

Educational Background: PhD, Chemistry
Patricia Forbes

I lecture analytical chemistry to students at the University of Pretoria. I conduct research focusing on environmental analytical chemistry, developing new and better ways to monitor pollutants in the environment. This includes methods based on fluorescence detection of organic pollutants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons which are generated upon combustion of fuels. In order to enhance and encourage students' understanding of spectrophotometry, I recently developed a kit which students can use to build their own spectrophotometer, which is inexpensive (~50 Euro) but generates analytically useable results. The instrument, which is called the SpecUP, allows for students to understand the fundamentals of spectrophotometry, which is not possible with commercial instruments which operate as "black boxes". The SpecUP has been implemented in a number of African universities, including South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Kenya and Tunisia. I have recently been awarded the 2014 Chemical Education Award by the South African Chemical Institute for my achievements with respect to this project.

There have been different challenges at each stage of my career, although perhaps the biggest was completing my PhD while being employed full time! When I applied for bursaries to study at university while still at school, I did not realize the impact that the field of chemistry which the sponsoring company represented (such as organic or inorganic chemistry focus), would have on my early career. Advice on this aspect would have been useful.

If you have a passion for science I recommend that you take up the challenge and give it your best. There are many exciting opportunities to grow personally and to contribute to society, which make a career in science very rewarding. Go for it!