Lecturer named UK’s top Higher Education biosciences teacher

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

Dr Nigel Francis, associate professor at Swansea University Medical School, 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 wins the £1,000 Ed Wood Memorial Prize, £250 worth of Oxford University Press books, and one year’s free membership to the Society.

He said: “To even be shortlisted as a finalist was incredible, but to be announced as the winner is a truly humbling feeling.”

Dr Francis’ teaching focuses on immunology and the development of graduate skills across all years of the undergraduate programmes.

To help ensure his students remained engaged and continued to learn in unprecedented circumstances he helped 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.

He said: “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.”

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 said: “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.”

Head of Swansea University Medical School Professor Keith Lloyd said: “It is fantastic to see Nigel’s innovative approach and passion for his subject recognised with this award. We are very proud of the work he has done to ensure our students continue to benefit from meaningful teaching during this challenging year.”

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