UQ microbiologist is Australian University Teacher of the Year

A University of Queensland microbiologist with a unique teaching approach has been announced as the University Teacher of the Year by Universities Australia.

A passionate educator, Associate Professor Jack Wang has been recognised for his out-of-the-box techniques, such as having students harvest microorganisms from their own bodies.

“As soon as the students arrive, I get them into the lab and get them to cough on agar plates – with and without face masks,” Dr Wang said.

“It’s a hands-on exercise that allows students to explore the hidden world of microbiology in the age of COVID-19,” Dr Wang said.

“They almost immediately see the impact – it’s much more powerful than just telling them about infection control.”

Dr Jack Wang won a UQ Award for Teaching Excellence in 2019.

It’s the second year in a row that UQ teachers have been awarded the top prize by Universities Australia, and the University remains the most awarded for teaching since the national program began in 1997.

Dr Wang was also recognised as the country’s best university teacher in the category of Biological Sciences, Health and Related Studies.

The young lecturer has taught more than 10,000 students since 2010 and said it had been a pleasure teaching each and every one.

“Helping shape a roomful of young, enthusiastic minds is an honour and a privilege,” he said.

“When I step up to teach, I fall back on a great teaching technique – assuming no one cares about what you’ve got to say – and I never take students’ attention for granted.

“I’m blown away by this recognition, and I’m just so thankful of the generous culture of education and training in my discipline.

“I’ve been lucky enough to have been mentored by some of the best teachers and scientists in the world, all of whom have moulded my approach to learning and teaching.”

UQ Vice-Chancellor and Universities Australia Chair Professor Deborah Terry congratulated Professor Wang on his award.

“I thank Associate Professor Wang for his work to make microbiology more widely understood in the community,” she said.

“He challenges his students to become citizen scientists in the digital age.”

From the UQ School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences, Dr Wang cites creativity and debate as some of his most effective tools of the trade.

“Like many of my students, I’ve spent too many hours watching TV shows and movies,” Dr Wang said.

“So, as a class, we share a collective compulsion in tracking down representations of science in popular culture, debating their accuracy and appropriate use of ‘creative license’.

“For some reason, zombie apocalypses seem to be the most common point of discussion – it’s fun and playful, but swiftly teaches important science lessons.”

UQ’s Dr Anna Hatton from the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and Dr Michael Bermingham and Professor Matthew Dargusch’s from the School of Mechanical and Mining Engineering were also awarded Citations for Outstanding Contributions to Student Learning.

Details of all the winners of the Australian Awards for University Teaching are available here.

Next month UQ will announce its own Awards for Teaching Excellence, recognising individuals and teams who make a substantial contribution to enhancing the quality of learning and teaching at UQ.

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