Departmental educators recognised in Teaching Awards scheme

Two members of the Biochemistry Department are recipients of this year’s Teaching Awards which recognise excellence in teaching and learning within the University.

Dr Philip Fowler and Dr Garry Brown have won an ‘Excellent Teacher’ award and a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ award respectively. They were presented with their awards at a Medical Sciences Division ceremony on November 6.

For the past 4 years, Dr Fowler has delivered a series of 6 lectures as part of the Biophysics option on the Biochemistry undergraduate course. The course, entitled ‘Non-covalent interactions and protein folding’, is given to all first year Biochemistry students and introduces them to fundamental topics such as electrostatics and the hydrophobic effect.

Dr Philip Fowler lecturing

Dr Philip Fowler lecturing

As a postdoc in the lab of Professor Mark Sansom for 7 years, Dr Fowler has been involved in a range of different teaching activities. Before the biophysics lecture series he was an Examples Class tutor on the first year Maths course and still gives maths revision tutorials towards the end of the year.

Aware of the need to keep his lectures engaging and useful, Dr Fowler asks his students for written feedback at the end of the course. Students have commented on the enjoyable and excellent style and content of his lectures - as well as on his hairstyle! As a result of feedback, Dr Fowler has moved his lecture series forward in the year so that he now delivers it in March rather than May, when students are focused on course work rather than revision.

To help reinforce learning, he incorporates interactive elements into his lectures, asking students to answer short questions using their smartphones. Getting up from their seats is encouraged too, with a stretching break halfway through the lectures.

References are a key part of undergraduate lectures and Dr Fowler has introduced a more streamlined way for students to access these. Rather than putting up a long list of references in the lecture, he uses the free reference manager Mendeley to collate all the relevant references in a single place which students can access (see: http://www.mendeley.com/groups/1095611/prelim-biophysics-non-covalent-interactions-and-protein-folding/).

Dr Garry Brown’s Lifetime Achievement Award is a new titular accolade. It has been given by the Medical Sciences Division and recognises staff who have demonstrated high quality and sustained commitment to teaching throughout their career in Oxford.

Dr Garry Brown

Dr Garry Brown

Dr Brown has been teaching on the pre-clinical Medicine course for more than 20 years. He makes a major contribution to the ‘Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics’ first year course as well as to the ‘Molecular mechanisms of genetic disease’ theme within the third year ‘Molecular Medicine’ option.

As one of the few people in the Department with a medical background, he has focused his teaching on the needs of medical students and relevance to their future clinical studies. Alongside lectures, he runs seminar classes where students can explore clinical applications of biochemistry to reinforce the relevance of the subject to clinical work.

Dr Brown has also been instrumental in developing a number of computer-based teaching resources including practical classes, termly assessments and the bank of questions for the online Part A BM examinations.

His efforts have been valued – the first year course always receives a very good rating from students. At a wider level too, teaching of medicine at Oxford is highly regarded. The course consistently comes out as the top medical course in the country in the National Student Survey.

Dr Brown comments that the Teaching Awards scheme is very important, especially for younger educators. It demonstrates that good teaching is valued and recognised by the University. 

For Dr Brown, the Lifetime Achievement award recognises the commitment and perseverance needed to deliver high quality teaching over many years and equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills.





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