03 AUGUST 2014

Dr Steve Owen

Could you tell us a little about your background?
 
I am from South West Wales, studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge University and did my PhD in Inorganic Chemistry there as well. While completing my PhD I was co-author of a university level book on Inorganic Chemistry. After this, however, I have a slightly non-standard background, in that I also worked three ski seasons in Austria. I have been teaching Chemistry at Sevenoaks School in the UK for 17 years now and over that time I have taught over 400 students IB HL and SL Chemistry. I am married and have two children, one of whom is studying SL Chemistry. I speak German and will be taking over as head of an international boarding house at Sevenoaks from August 2014.
 
What first interested you in Chemistry?

I always teased my parents that I ended up as a chemist because I was not allowed to have a chemistry set as a child, but I am not sure that that is really true. I also used to love Maths at school but what really set me on the path to Chemistry was when we first studied organic reaction mechanisms in the Sixth Form – I loved the idea that, all of a sudden, I could really understand what was going on in a chemical reaction rather than just learning an equation. 
 
Which is your favourite area of Chemistry research?

I am an inorganic chemist and carried out research looking at transition metal cluster compounds but I would not really say that I am that interested in research – what I really love is teaching Chemistry and, even when I was doing my PhD I probably spent more time teaching than doing research.
 
Have you got any tips for teaching Chemistry for the IB Diploma? 

The most important thing is understanding – Chemistry should be about understanding concepts rather than learning facts. Don’t get caught out by how much there is to get through and use exam questions as a guide to how much depth to go into.
 
How does Chemistry for the IB Diploma help learners? 

I like to think that the concepts are explained clearly and there is a wide range of examples to help students practise all the different types of questions that they could encounter.

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