Warming up to PBL
I teach the introduction to biology course, which is probably one of the first courses that you will take at the MSP. I also coordinate the practical courses, so the first time that you go to the lab, you will encounter me as well. I’m one of the first faces you will see here, and I want you to feel at home and be inspired from the very beginning of your studies.
Open-minded, motivated students
The programme is interdisciplinary and it gives a lot of freedom to students. So the students that come here tend to be naturally curious and open-minded about different scientific fields. They are generally quite motivated, which is great for me as a teacher even better for you as their fellow student because you will be working a lot with them in small groups. It is a luxury to teach and to learn along with people who are interested. That makes this programme very appealing and the fact that it’s international makes it that much better. Having lived in the US for a couple of years, finishing my PhD and then teaching, and having done an internship in Sweden, I know how enriching an international learning environment can be.
Warming up to PBL
I didn’t have much experience with Problem-Based Learning before coming here. But I was quickly able to see how well it worked, and how it is really up to the students to participate and work together to solve problems. That is something that I had not seen much in previous places where I had taught. PBL really pushes students to be active in the classroom (not that MSP students need much pushing). In the beginning, they sometimes have to warm up a little bit, but usually in the second or third week they are comfortable setting their learning objectives together, discussing the information they find and solving problems in a small group. I’m sure the friendly atmosphere at the MSP helps with that.
Everyone on the academic staff here really like each other and function as a team, which can be quite rare when you look at other places where colleagues often treat each other as competition. The students benefit from it in the classroom, and friendliness is always contagious. You can see that with the students, that they immediately enjoy getting to know each other and working together in such a welcoming environment. There is really a college feeling here where everyone knows each other. I know a lot of students and a lot of students know me by first name. That gives this place a relaxed, close-knit vibe.
Creatively combining disciplines
Another thing that I think is a lot of fun here is that sometimes I can offer projects for students with people from other disciplines. This is something that I would have never encountered if I stayed in the biology department at a different university. For example, I did a project on cricket’s chirps with a colleague who is an astronomer. My colleague had a video of a solar eclipse with the sound of crickets chirping in the background. Crickets are supposed to chirp depending on the outside temperature and, of course, it gets colder and darker during a solar eclipse. When we had the students analyse the data, they could really nicely see (or hear) that phenomenon from the cricket chirps in the video. This was something that I would have never thought about testing, but my colleague and I came up with the project when we were just talking one day. And the students thought it was a lot of fun. You can become more creative working here with people of different disciplines, especially when it comes to the projects. And that type of academic creativity is also contagious; you often see students coming up with very clever and creative things while working together.