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The Mathematical, Physical, and Life Sciences (MPLS) Division at the University is once again celebrating the outstanding teaching efforts of its staff, with seven remarkable individuals honoured in this year’s MPLS Teaching Awards.

MPLS Teaching Awards 2024

Our divisional Teaching Awards scheme is dedicated to celebrating success and recognising innovative teaching practices across all career stages. This initiative is open to everyone engaged in teaching roles, including graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty members, and learning support staff.

This year, the awards attracted a high level of interest with 63 members of staff nominated through 114 separate nominations. The selection process concluded in June, and winners were chosen based on merit by a cross-departmental panel chaired by Professor Martin Castell, Associate Head of Division (Taught Degrees).

Reflecting on this year's selection process, Professor Martin Castell said: ‘The MPLS Teaching Awards continue to be a fantastic celebration of pedagogic excellence within our Division. It was a challenge to select only seven winners from such an impressive pool of candidates. I am particularly delighted by the range of early-career and more established educators who were nominated. Congratulations to all our winners and nominees for their remarkable contributions to teaching.’

Professor Jim Naismith, Head of the MPLS Division, expressed his admiration for this year’s nominees: ‘Oxford teaching transforms lives for the better. MPLS is rightly proud of the efforts of our colleagues who deliver excellent teaching day in day out. I am really pleased to celebrate some exceptional and inspirational teachers who have won these awards and those who were nominated.’

The awardees will be honoured at a special reception this September, attended by senior leadership from across the MPLS Division, celebrating another year of exceptional teaching achievements.

2024 winners

Dr Reka Toth

Dr Reka Toth – Department of Biology

Reka is Departmental Lecturer in Biology and was nominated by a member of staff with this nomination strongly endorsed by the Department. The supporting statement for Reka’s nomination highlighted her critical contributions to the teaching and development of the MBiol. The nomination further drew attention to the ‘meticulous feedback’ that Reka provides while training for the AFHEA certificate. The nomination also notes Reka’s ‘commendable leadership’ in providing inclusive teaching that has improved the experiences of neurodivergent students, describing Reka as ‘an indefatigable advocate for the MBiol and Oxford University’. 

Dr Craig Campbell

Dr Craig Campbell – Department of Chemistry

Craig, a Departmental Lecturer in Practical Chemistry and Organic Chemistry, and Lecturer in Organic Chemistry at the Queen’s College and St Hugh’s College, was nominated by two members of staff. Craig’s nomination was strongly supported by the Department. Craig is described as ‘a truly exceptional teacher, who cannot do enough for his students’. His involvement in the development of the new practical Chemistry course is especially highlighted. Craig is described as someone who ‘has helped establish Oxford as an institution that leads the way on modern teaching approaches for practical chemistry’. His nominations highlight the innovative ‘research-like teaching’ approaches he has introduced, focused upon skills development and decision-making to complement the traditional ‘cook-book’ approach.

The nomination included notes from other academics how ‘the new practicals have majorly impacted the aptitude/training of students’. The nomination also highlights Craig’s sensitivity to areas where students may need further support, such as his development of tasks to develop and strengthen students’ spreadsheet skills. 

Rebecca Crossley

Rebecca Crossley – Mathematical Institute

Becky is a current DPhil in Mathematics at the Wolfson Centre for Mathematical Biology. She was nominated by a member of staff in her department which was strongly supported. The nomination outlines how it has ‘been truly clear to the department’ since Becky joined in 2021 that she is ‘passionate about teaching and outreach’. It notes how Becky consistently receives positive feedback on her teaching and how students consistently mention how she is always willing to go ‘above and beyond’ to ensure their understanding. Such students describe Becky as ‘approachable, understanding and an excellent teacher’.

The nomination also highlights Becky’s outreach activities such as her help with facilitating the department’s flagship event for women in mathematics, It All Adds Up. The department also notes Becky’s contributions to their social media films, expressing their gratitude for her hard work and input, describing Becky as an asset to the Mathematical Institute.

Dr Alan Roth

Dr Alan Roth – MPLS

Alan is currently the Royal Society’s Entrepreneur in Residence (EiR) and a Visiting Lecturer in Chemistry. He received thirteen nominations, which were endorsed by the MPLS Division. Alan’s nominations all note the strength and quality of his Scientific Entrepreneurship course which appears to have garnered an impeccable reputation within the MPLS Division.

Many of the nominations note the ease of Alan’s communication, his enthusiasm, and his approachability for students. Further, many nominations highlight the value of Alan’s combined research and professional experience which provides attendees a ‘innovative and impactful’ learning environment. Nominations also note Alan’s ‘exceptional mentorship’, ‘passion for teaching’, and ‘extremely engaging’ lectures. Various students note how Alan’s course has improved their confidence in being able to apply their scientific knowledge to the world of business and entrepreneurship.

Lot Koopmans

Lot Koopmans – Department of Earth Sciences

Lot is a current DPhil in the Department of Earth Sciences. Lot received 22 nominations from staff and students, all of which were endorsed by the Department. Many of Lot’s nominations note how Lot goes ‘above and beyond’ for students after stepping in to cover while another member of staff is on sabbatical. Students and staff really value Lot’s enthusiasm and willingness to take the time to help break down complicated topics, describing him as a kind, patient, and approachable teacher. Various nominations also mention Lot’s significant contributions to Earth Sciences field trips and his supervision of Masters students.

Many of the nominations note how Lot goes far beyond what is usually expected of a graduate student and how his dedication to students is both impressive and admirable. Students describe Lot as a ‘great teacher’ and ‘a joy to learn from’.

Professor David Marshall

Professor David Marshall – Department of Physics

David is Professor of Physical Oceanography and was nominated by a member of staff with this nomination endorsed by his Department. David’s nomination notes the consistency of the excellent student feedback received regarding his teaching. It also highlights David’s wide variety of teaching contributions and his service to the department by being active on the Academic Committee for many years.

Students especially appreciate David’s engagement with the history of Physics, especially women’s contributions to Physics. Students highly value learning this history alongside their subject teaching. 

Professor Thomas Adcock

Professor Thomas Adcock – Department of Engineering Science

Tom is Professor of Engineering Science and Tutorial Fellow at St Peter’s College and is currently serving as Senior Proctor. Tom was nominated by two members of staff and these nominations were supported by the Department. Tom’s nominations highlight his ‘enormous contribution’ to the high-quality teaching of Engineering Science at Oxford. Specifically, Tom’s tireless work on various teaching-related projects including editing a new edition of the Department’s undergraduate reference book ‘Engineering Tables and Data’ known as ‘HLT’.

This project is central to the department’s undergraduate teaching and Tom’s work on this project has been invaluable. The nominations also emphasised Tom’s contributions to an outreach residential at St Peter’s College and how this programme has raised the aspirations of young engineers from groups under-represented at Oxford.