Faculty of Science

Highly-awarded teachers

Further information

Our graduates

Our inspiring teachers have been recognized by Faculty and University awards.

Associate Professor Paul Abbott

Associate Professor Paul Abbott

Associate Professor Abbott, in the School of Physics, received the 2015 UWA Award for Excellence in Teaching, for outstanding contributions to student learning. This follows two Faculty of Science Awards for Excellence in Teaching in 2014 and 2010.

Besides having extensive research publications to his name, writing columns for The Mathematica Journal, and teaching multiple undergraduate units, he has developed the entire Computational Physics course from scratch, refining it since 1993 into a unique, problem-based learning experience that integrates the industry-standard Mathematica program into both student learning and assessment.

He believes that the one true vocation of scientists and engineers is problem-solving, and acknowledges that despite the extra effort required to teach and assess a problem-based course, the benefit is in the development of students computational skills within real-world scenarios.

"There are very few courses worldwide that use computer algebra immersively as I do. This approach is, I think, the key advantage to the students in taking these courses," he says.

"University teaching is much more than just the act of imparting facts to students. Our University motto is Seek Wisdom, not Seek Knowledge, and learning problem-solving techniques helps one become wise. My role as a teacher in Computational Physics and Applied Mathematics is to provide students with the intellectual tools with which they can interpret, analyse, and solve problems."

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Dr Peter Arthur

Dr Peter Arthur was granted a UWA 2013 Teaching Fellowship Award, together with Professor Paul Attwood and Dr Martha Ludwig, for the group's 'Enhancing and Expanding the Laboratory Modules in Contemporary Technologies Program'.

With his colleagues, Dr Arthur focuses on improving the quality of laboratory teaching, so as to enhance student engagement and develop student skills in modern technologies, data analysis and problem solving.

"We promote 'hands on' or experiential learning in science and technology to stimulate student engagement and learning." he says.

"As part of this process we are developing techniques so that ongoing student and assessment feedback to laboratory designers can be used for continual improvement of the laboratory experience."

Dr Arthur's work has been recognised previously by a 2012 Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching for Programs that Enhance Student Learning (also with Prof. Peter Arthur, Dr Martha Ludwig, and Mr Paul Kirkwood), and a 2008 Excellence in Coursework Teaching Award, together with a 2008 Teaching Commendation from the then Faculty of Life and Physical Sciences.

His own research focuses on oxidative stress, a process by which reactive oxygen species (also known as free radicals) overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defences. Reactive oxygen species are thought to contribute to the complications of many chronic and lifestyle diseases such as muscle wasting, blindness, Alzheimer’s, emphysema, muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, renal failure and aging.

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Professor Paul Attwood

Professor Paul Attwood received a UWA 2013 Teaching Fellowship Award, together with Associate Professor Peter Arthur and Associate Professor Martha Ludwig, for the group's 'Enhancing and Expanding the Laboratory Modules in Contemporary Technologies Program'.

Professor Attwood has been substantially involved in developing second and third year laboratory practicals in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

The overall approach of the practicals has been reconsidered, to encourage more active student engagement and avoid a 'recipe book' approach, going through the motions without thinking. New equipment has also been incorporated, and more computer-based activities now supplement work in the 'wet' laboratories.

Prior to his work in the Faculty of Science, Professor Attwood contributed for many years to the development of biochemistry courses in Medicine and Agriculture.

His philosophy in reconfiguring lab practicals is based on a belief that the best teachers are those who allow students to think for themselves, but are ready to assist when problems arise.

"Students need to be encouraged to think for themselves, it is ultimately unrewarding to be spoon-fed all the time," he says.

"University teaching should promote a habit of enquiry and critical appraisal in students that they can take forward into whatever career they choose to pursue.

Professor Attwood's work in reconfiguring classes and practicals has been supported in the past by a 2011 ALTC Seeding Fund Grant (with Assoc/Prof Peter Arthur and Assoc/Prof Martha Ludwig), a 2007 UWA ISL Grant with Assoc/Prof Peter Arthur, and a 2007 Teaching Infrastructure Grant.

His main research interest is in the mechanism, regulation, structure and function of enzymes. In particluar, the key metabolic enzyme pyruvate carboxylase, the bifunctional enzyme complex DmpFG, and protein histidine phosphorylation in mammalian systems – the kinases and phosphatases.

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Dr Susan Barker

Associate Professor Susan Barker

Dr Barker received the UWA Award for Excellence in Coursework Teaching in 2009 for her work in establishing and teaching UWA's degrees in Genetics and Breeding.

"When I first encountered classical genetics at university, I did not understand it at all, she recalls. Remembering my own difficulties has helped me to see the students perspective, particularly those who are required to do Genetics as a core unit rather than by choice," she says.

"My inspirational teachers were those who were enthusiastic about their topic; who were not afraid to be challenged; who did not need to dominate and oppress their class or to appear to know everything, but who taught each of us as individuals and encouraged our exploration into new territories.

As a result, Dr Barker now holds these qualities as criteria for her own teaching method. Studying how life perpetuates is the epitome of biological enquiry. "I couldn't ask for a more inspiring topic. I will continue through my career to aim for that same awe and inspiration in my students that they may, perhaps, help tip the balance of human activities towards a more sustainable future."

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Dr Darren Grasso

Dr Darren Grasso won a 2014 Faculty of Science Excellence in Coursework Teaching Award.

Dr Grasso was involved in developing a new third year Mathematical Physics unit (PHYS3011).  He personally created and delivered all of the lecture content, whilst Associate Professor Paul Abbott (another award winner) designed and delivered the computational component.

He has also developed and delivered an 18-lecture honours module entitled ‘Advanced Classical Mechanics’.

When he was a student himself, Dr Grasso was inspired by teachers who were passionate about the units they were teaching, and could show how new material connected with pre-existing knowledge.

"I find that students are already quite motivated and it is bad teaching that does damage to this," says Dr Grasso.  "I initially engage the students by giving them clear and motivating overviews:  showing them where they are now; what they will know by the end of the course; why the content is so important and how it fits into the larger picture; and what amazing new skills they will possess at the end."

"To be an effective educator and to sustain student motivation, I believe one must have a well-developed theory of mind: always maintaining a direct awareness of a student’s perceptions and current knowledge; and continuously visualising the learning process from the perspective of a first-time student. A large part of this necessarily involves spending time interacting with students."

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Dr Marit Kragt

Dr Marit Kragt won a 2014 Award for Excellence in Honours Supervision

This follows a string of 2013 research-related awards: the UWA 2013 Early Career Researcher Best Publication Award; the 2013 Early Career Research Excellence Award of the The Modelling and Simulation Society of Australia and New Zealand; the Best Paper Award of the 2013 International Choice Modelling Conference and the 2013 Prize Essay of the Agricultural Economics Society.

In her student days, Dr Kragt admired teachers with an interactive manner, finding this stimulated discussion, and made teachers seem more 'human'.

"This is also how I try to teach," she says. "I don't think that university teaching is just about remembering information. It should be more about learning to think critically, and learning techniques to solve problems, rather than regurgitating facts."

Dr Kragt is an environmental economist whose research is largely interdisciplinary, integrating science and economics to support better natural resource management decisions.

She teaches in a number of units in the Agricultural and Resource Economics.

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Dr Martha Ludwig

Dr Martha Ludwig won a UWA 2013 Teaching Fellowship Award, with Dr Peter Arthur and Professor Paul Attwood, for the group's program 'Enhancing and Expanding the Laboratory Modules in Contemporary Technologies'.

This follows a joint 2012 Faculty of Science award for Programs that Enhance Student Learning Award, and a 2005 Teaching Award from the Australian Society of Plant Scientists.

Dr Ludwig has worked with Dr Arthur and Prof. Attwood to improve level two units in biochemistry, molecular biology and genetics, increasing the use of modern technologies in the coursework, and encouraging aspects self-directed learning.

"A focus of our iterative program is to ensure best teaching and learning practices through quantification of its outcomes, using student feedback and marks."

"I had an inspiring teacher in my last year of primary school, who fostered my interest in the sciences and maths," she says. "She made these subjects both relevant and fun, and the challenges she put to us had a profound effect on the classes I took in secondary school."

"At university, I had a wonderful lecturer in developmental biology. The unit was largely self-directed, and opened my eyes to the world of cell and molecular biology. It also gave me an inkling of what it would be like to teach, as one of the assessment tasks was to present a lecture on a topic in developmental biology."

Dr Ludwig's own research focuses on the evolution of the C4 photosynthetic pathway. Plants using this biochemical pathway can outperform species using the evolutionarily ancestral C3 photosynthetic pathway in hot, dry, and/or high light environments. This research aims to show how to build a C4 pathway in C3 crop plants, enabling these plants to grow in environments that are currently hostile to them.

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Professor Geoffrey Meyer

Professor Geoffrey Meyer

Professor Geoffrey Meyer completed his PhD in the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology, at The University of Western Australia. He has received a number of teaching awards including a UWA Excellence in Innovation in Teaching Award, an International Excellence in Innovation in Teaching, Learning and Technology Award and was a 1999 Australian University Teaching Award Winner. In 2006 he received a UWA Teaching Fellowship. Professor Meyer was awarded a prestigious ALTC (Australian Learning and Teaching Council) Fellowship in 2009 and is currently the Project Leader on a 2011 ALTC Project Grant.

Professor Meyer’s research activities focus on developing innovative, computer-aided, learning and teaching tools.

In 2012 he delivered his 'Histology course' completely online to UWA students with very positive feedback from formal student evaluations. His innovative online histology portal  is currently accessed by histology professors and students at 83 universities worldwide. In 2013, students from over 120 universities will access the learning and teaching resources.

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Dr Pieter Poot

Assistant Professor Pieter Poot

Dr Poot's passionate lecturing style has made him popular with his Biometrics and Conservation Biology students. This quality was officially recognised early in his academic career through a nomination in 2007 and an Award for Excellence in Coursework Teaching in 2008 and 2010.

Most students find statistics boring, complicated and irrelevant, he says. I believe my success in motivating them to learn biometrics is based on simplicity and logic, structure, repetition, relevance, discussion, and enthusiasm.

He consistently receives positive feedback from his students; The enthusiasm that many students refer to must be due to my own fascination for the beauty of logic in mathematics and the beauty of the natural world in general.

Dr Poot has also provided some of his teaching material to colleagues who make use of them in their units, and they have been impressed by the detail, rigour and logic of his material. He constructs his lectures in such a way that the students can learn straight from the lecture notes and do not have to rely heavily on standard texts, which can be difficult to understand.

"I aim to stimulate an interest in plant biology and convey a sense of fascination and respect for the natural world we live in," he says.

"Meanwhile, I try to show students that statistical methods are by no means boring and not as complicated as they often think. These methods are invaluable for objectively evaluating our observations."

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Dr Dale Roberts

Dr Dale Roberts won a 2014 Faculty award for Excellence in Postgraduate Supervision.

Dr Roberts has been a major contributor to the creation of science courses at UWA.

From the late 1980s into the early 90s, he developed the Behavioural Ecology course. This began as a small, initially optional unit in Ethology, later becoming Animal Behaviour, before assuming its present name as the discipline evolved.

In the 1990s he developed the Marine Biology majors with Emeritus Professor Diana Walker, in the then Department of Botany.

And more recently has had key input into the development of Conservation Biology programs.

In his student years, Dr Roberts was inspired by teachers who encouraged "using your own brain and developing confidence in your own abilities to think through problems and criticise data and ideas."

"I hated rote learning – loved thinking and criticising ideas!," he says. His excitement in studying science received early stimulation from a second year course in biogeography. "I was introduced to 'phylogenetic systematics' as developed by Willi Hennig. Beautifully logical arguments to unravel relationships amongst living organisms and to relate that to their spatial history!!

"Students should leave UWA with an ability to find information, evaluate it, critique it and use that evaluation to move forward," he says. "If those basic skills are developed well they allow students to shift into new fields easily."

"Students have to read original literature – the sooner the better – then get a reward for creativity – even if the result is not always perfect."

"One of the best reports I've ever received on a practical exercise was written by an anthropology major, who knew and consequently used no statistics, but drew pictures to accompany the raw data, and so made a compelling argument about how to interpret them."

Dr Roberts' main research interests are in evolutionary biology, speciation, sexual selection, animal acoustics, biogeography, conservation biology and threatened species management.

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Mrs Kerry Smith

Kerry Smith

Over the past 30 years Kerry Smith has developed expertise in work-integrated learning, clinical training and remedial physical education and delights in educating her students in these areas.

She uses all her abilities to enable her students to develop professionally and personally as educated, inquiring and contributing members of society. With her large network of industry and alumni contacts throughout Australia, and a strong emphasis on student support, she provides work-integrated programs that ensure her students gain the knowledge, skills and competencies to graduate work-ready.

Following UWA Excellence in Teaching Awards in 2008 and 2009 for program and individual excellence, in 2009 Kerry was awarded an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Citation for outstanding contributions to student learning.

This was followed in 2010 by a UWA Chancellor's Medal for outstanding contributions to the University and in November 2010 by an Australian Learning and Teaching Council Excellence in Teaching Award for Programs that Enhance Learning.

She is recognised as a leader in work-integrated learning and is highly respected for her expertise and teaching by her students and alumni within the Sport Science, Exercise and Health.

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Mr Alexander Tang

Mr Alexander Tang won a 2014 Faculty of Science Student Teacher Award.

Mr Tang is a PhD candidate in Animal Biology, inspired by teachers who are engaged in research and passionate about their work.

He is researching the use of non-invasive therapies, such as non-invasive brain stimulation, to promote regeneration and rehabilitation after neurotrauma.

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