Our divisional Teaching Awards scheme celebrates success, and recognises and rewards excellence in innovative teaching practice. It is open to everyone who teaches, including graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, faculty and learning support staff.
Awards are made on merit, with winners selected by a cross-departmental panel. This year, entries closed in April and 108 members of staff were nominated, through 168 separate nominations.
Professor Mike Bonsall, Associate Head of Division (Education) chaired the judging panel. He said: ‘The MPLS Teaching Awards are a fantastic opportunity to celebrate teaching talent across the Division and to recognise excellence. We had our work cut out this year, choosing just ten winners from such a competitive field of glowing nominations. They could have all been deserving winners. We were especially pleased to see so many nominees at earlier career stages as well as those who are further advanced in their careers. My warmest congratulations to all of our winners and to all those who were nominated.’
Professor Sam Howison, Head of the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences Division, said: ‘Our Teaching Awards are an opportunity for us to shine a light on the commitment and innovation of our teaching staff at all levels, and across every department, who are so ably supporting the University’s teaching mission and helping to inspire the next generation of leading scientists. How wonderful to see such a strong haul of entries, and I second Mike in congratulating everyone on their nominations, especially our ten overall winners this year.’
The panel met earlier this month to select the following ten winners, who will be recognised as part of a reception attended by senior leadership from across MPLS, in September 2023.
Ms Sumali Bajaj – Department of Biology
Sumali received two staff nominations that were supported by the Department of Biology. Both gave the panel a strong sense of how much she has contributed to key changes in the teaching material for the Advanced Computation modules for third-year undergraduates and how that has contributed significantly to increased student satisfaction over the years.
Sumali is also full of ideas about how to empower disadvantaged students, for example by holding workshops and offering mentoring.
Dr Martin Galpin – Department of Chemistry
Martin is Deputy Director of Studies in Chemistry and he received two student nominations that were strongly endorsed by his Department. Both students highlighted his ability to engage positively with students, explain difficult concepts, and provide many examples in lectures of how to complete questions.
In addition to his inventive teaching in Mathematics for the MChem course and high level of tutorial teaching, Martin has also prepared a series of recorded sessions for academic staff on how to use Panopto and Canvas. This has led to universal acceptance of lecture recording in the department and, in turn, to a huge enhancement of Chemistry’s teaching offering.
Dr Andrew Ker – Department of Computer Science
Andrew is a Lecturer and Tutorial Fellow in Computer Science. He received a student nomination praising the well-structured lectures he delivers, which help to support learning in areas which are not necessarily easy or favourites amongst his students.
The Department of Computer Science endorsed the nomination and stated that other student feedback received for Andrew indicates that a number of other students might have wished to put forward a nomination for a Teaching Award, particularly since Andrew consistently receives high feedback scores for his lectures.
Dr Tamarah King – Department of Earth Sciences
Earthquake geologist, Tamarah King, received 11 nominations through the MPLS nomination process, plus two additional nominations in letters sent directly to the Associate Head of Division (Education). These recommendations came from both faculty members and undergraduate students and all recognised Tamarah’s enormous efforts in classroom, tutorials and field teaching this year. The Department strongly endorsed her nominations. All of her student nominations touched on her passion for the subject being taught and the interactive teaching delivery, with simplistic explanations.
Tamarah is recognised for being a fantastic science communicator who uses her platform for good, for knowledge and for change.
Ms Alexandra Morton-Hayward – Department of Earth Sciences
Alexandra is a graduate student and early-career teacher. She received two nominations from undergraduate students for contributions to demonstrating in their first-year palaeontology classes. Alexandra has a personal, inclusive and positive approach to demonstrating. This was recognised in the nominations, where students commented on the additional steps she took to support them, on top of her already outstanding demonstrator ability. The Department endorsed these nominations to highlight the extremely positive effect this has had on first-year students, at a stage when they are still adjusting to learning in a University context.
Dr Isaac Mear – Department of Engineering Science
Isaac shows enthusiasm and drive to progress his teaching and provides helpful and friendly support to colleagues and students. He initiated an Engineering Teaching Forum, with termly meetings that provide a space for academics and students to discuss teaching-related topics and give short presentations. The aim of these sessions is to improve learning outcomes on the MEng programme.
Professor James Marrow – Department of Materials
The Department of Materials nominated James for this MPLS Teaching Award, to recognise his overall academic leadership for undergraduate teaching in Materials, which is carried out in a thorough and excellent manner. The nomination demonstrates James’s leadership skills in garnering the support of the academic staff in the Department to overhaul the undergraduate course. James ensured the integrity of this process by ensuring that the new course incorporated input from a wide range of relevant experts in the field.
The new course has been well received and James has worked hard to iron out any issues and to involve appropriate staff in reworking and delivering the updated course structure and materials.
Dr Brian Tyrrell – Mathematical Institute
The Mathematical Institute nominated Brian for this award. Brian is at an early career stage and, as a graduate student, is engaged with teaching undergraduate students, from whom he often receives excellent feedback.
Brian is deeply interested in teaching, outreach and education, and works hard to make mathematics a more approachable and friendlier subject for all. He has completed the Advanced Teaching & Learning Programme at Oxford, making him an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Authority (HEA). This academic year, Brian led on a new Departmental initiative, ‘The Prelims Maths Corner’, which runs weekly and is an opportunity for Prelim students to meet and work with fellow mathematicians on problem sheets, in a relaxed and supportive environment.
Professor Claire Gwenlan – Department of Physics
Claire was nominated by her Department. She receives excellent feedback from students on the first-year electromagnetism lectures, for her engaging lectures, well-structured material, and correctly paced teaching style. All of this enables students to engage and help with their understanding of the subject.
In addition, Claire’s role as Deputy Head of Electromagnetism (EM) Labs involves demonstrating electromagnetism to first-year students, which has been very successful.
Dr Neil Laws – Department of Statistics
Neil has been the Director of Studies in Statistics since 2008 and he has a wide range of duties relating to academic strategy and delivery in the areas of admissions, teaching and examining. As a proactive representative of the Department in teaching-related discussions with the Mathematical Institute, he has a crucial role in the seamless delivery of the undergraduate teaching and teaching related to the MSc in Mathematical Sciences, both of which are delivered jointly by the Department of Statistics and the Mathematical Institute. Neil was nominated by the Department of Statistics for playing a pivotal role in numerous teaching innovations in recent years. To name a few, these have included the change to admissions for undergraduates in both the Mathematics and the Mathematics and Statistics degrees, and adapting teaching to accommodate the changing needs of students.