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Lecturer named UK’s top biosciences teacher

26 April 2021

An academic who helped to pioneer engaging ways of teaching science remotely during the pandemic has been honoured by the Royal Society of Biology.

Dr Nigel Francis, who will join Cardiff University as a senior lecturer in biosciences in the summer, has been named Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year 2021.

Every year the prestigious award seeks to identify the country’s leading bioscience teachers in higher education and recognise outstanding individuals with innovative approaches to teaching.

Dr Francis, who wins the £1,000 Ed Wood Memorial Prize, £250 worth of Oxford University Press books, and one year’s free membership to the Society, said it was a “truly humbling feeling”.

“I hope to be able to continue to develop as an educator in my new role. There have been so many lessons learnt from teaching through the pandemic and it is an incredibly exciting time to working in education,” he said.

Dr Francis’ teaching focuses at Cardiff will be on immunology and supporting physiology provision.

To help ensure his students remained engaged and continued to learn in unprecedented circumstances during the pandemic he helped to establish #DryLabsRealScience – an online collaboration network for life sciences education. It aims to provide remote solutions for lab teaching and research project through webinars, online guides, teaching resources and links.

“The #DryLabsRealScience network has been such a fantastic project to be involved with and, for me, has been the highlight of what has been a challenging year for HE educators,” said Dr Francis, who is currently associate professor at Swansea University Medical School.

The award judges were impressed by his use of videos to enhance student learning and engagement during laboratory teaching.

Dr Francis is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In 2020 he was awarded the British Society for Immunology Teaching Excellence Award and is a recipient of Swansea University’s Excellence in Learning and Teaching Award.

He added: “I believe that for students to get the most from their education they need to be actively engaged with the learning material.

“For me, this means providing students with the opportunity to review resources in their own time and create an environment where they are encouraged to experiment, question assumptions and most importantly not be afraid of making a mistake.

“I’m really looking forward to the challenge that starting at Cardiff will bring and to being able to contribute to the success of the School.”

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