Dr Chris Adams, 1973-2022
11 January 2023
Dr Chris Adams, Lecturer in the School of Chemistry, passed away in September 2022. His colleagues offer a tribute to a dedicated and visionary champion for undergraduate teaching.
Chris was an undergraduate and postgraduate student at the University of Cambridge, where he studied transition metal complexes of acetylide ligands for his PhD in Inorganic Chemistry under the supervision of Professor Paul Raithby. He then joined the University of Bristol, first as a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Neil Connelly’s and then Professor Guy Orpen’s research groups. He was appointed to a lectureship in 2006 and successfully secured funding to launch an independent research group exploring the use of transition metal complexes in molecular computing.
In 2010, a career break allowed Chris to focus on his young children, but he returned to the School of Chemistry as a Teaching Laboratory Fellow in 2011. In this new role, he excelled in the teaching of practical chemistry, using the School’s Dynamic Laboratory Manual as a platform for innovation, and he honed his knowledge and skills in chemistry education. Many past and present students, more than 2,000 of whom trained under his guidance, have praised his qualities as a mentor and teacher.
In 2019, the School of Chemistry convened an external review of its undergraduate curriculum. The report from the expert panel motivated the School to transform the content and delivery of its teaching to meet the needs of modern undergraduate Chemistry students who go on to follow many different career paths. Chris played a central role in the implementation of this new curriculum. He presented a compelling case for change at an away-day for Chemistry staff in which the vision for a new course was discussed and agreed. This event proved to be an essential foundation for what followed: colleagues were all invested in the delivery of the transformative plans, and Chris helped them to maintain the momentum for change during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The School now has a new curriculum that is the envy of other UK chemistry departments. Under Chris’s expert tutelage, colleagues have embraced more effective teaching methods, founded on modern educational research and using new technology to promote student engagement. These achievements were recognised in multiple nominations for Bristol Teaching Awards, and Chris received the award for Innovative Teaching in the Faculty of Science in June 2022. He became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2019, and progressed to Senior Fellow in 2021. At the start of the 2021/22 academic year, Chris ran catch-up practicals for the new second-year students disadvantaged by the COVID-19 pandemic alongside his usual leadership of the first-year teaching laboratory. He ascribed his growing fatigue to getting too old for the labs, but was unfortunately diagnosed with the disease that led to his early retirement on medical grounds.
Although Chris found his true vocation in teaching chemistry to undergraduate students, he had many outside interests. He was well known on the University’s cricket circuit, captaining the University of Bristol’s staff second team in the Bristol and City local league. As his children began to pursue their own activities, Chris found time for cycling and walking, and he was an enthusiastic piano player. Chris is survived by his wife and two children, as well as his father and brother. He will be remembered and greatly missed as a friend, as well as a colleague who always strove to improve undergraduate education and the student experience.