Laura Deakin receives the 2020 Excellence in Science Teaching Award

Monday, April 27, 2020

Nanotechnology engineering instructor Laura Deakin and pharmacist Nardine Nakhla have been awarded the Faculty of Science's 2020 Excellence in Science Teaching Award for their innovative and engaging teaching methods.

Laura Deakin, Department of Chemistry

Laura Deakin headshotContinuing lecturer Laura Deakin is known for her lively, engaging lectures and unconditional support for her students. She is also the Associate Program Director (Internal) for the Nanotechnology Engineering Program. 

She has taught seven different courses over the past three years, including three she created herself - aspects of nanomaterials health risk, nanotoxicology and environmental impact. She is consistently the highest rated Chemistry instructor for the Nanotechnology Engineering program and always among the highest rated in the Chemistry Department.

Deakin uses various active learning strategies to engage her students in her dynamic, fast-paced classroom. Students are given materials for self-study so they come to class prepared to participate in numerous hands-on exercises and discussion. Deakin also includes topics about professionalism and study habits in her courses to prepare them for their courses and co-op terms.

"She teaches in a way that allows students to develop critical thinking skills, encourages them to consider the real-world applications of the subject matter as well as helps develop their independence and ability to solve problems," said Allan, a fourth-year student.

Deakin emphasizes health and safety in her classes because many nanomaterials are very new so their toxicological properties are poorly understood. She teaches her students how to evaluate and understand the safety of this new field as well as how to protect themselves in the workplace. She encourages her students to reach out if they have any safety concerns while on co-op.

She is passionate about the learning environment. Deakin has been the Chemistry representative to the Nanoengineering Curriculum Committee for three years and is currently the chair of the committee. She works regularly with her colleagues from Engineering to improve the structure and cohesion of the program as a whole. Her tries to ensure the content connects to benefit the students' learning. Deakin is also an undergraduate and graduate advisor.

"What really stands out to me about Laura is how her efforts run the gamut from curriculum development to content creation, excellence in the classroom, and support for students outside of it; and this support continues even after they are no longer "her" students," says Prof. Michael Palmer.

The Excellence is Science Teaching Award (ESTA) was initiated by Earth and Environmental Sciences Prof. Mario Coniglio when he was the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies in the Faculty of Science. Since 2011, the ESTA has be awarded annually to a maximum of two candidates from the Faculty of Science.

Nominees are evaluated by a committee on their ability to:

  • demonstrate sustained and high-quality teaching in their courses
  • utilize current and best practice teaching techniques
  • present high quality subject matter with intellectual rigour and integrity
  • use and/or has developed innovative and state-of-the-art teaching techniques 
  • contributes to the improvement of teaching and learning within the Department/School or University
  • has, as an instructor, had a favourable and lasting influence on students or colleagues

  • demonstrates a sensitivity to the needs of students and a sincere concern for their overall learning, and academic and personal growth

Congratulations Laura!

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