Matthew Mason – Department of Physiology, Development & Neuroscience

Well it’s very difficult to define what
a good teacher is, but I think that the the first golden rule has to be a
commitment to doing it. If you’re going to teach well and you’re going to
teach in Cambridge, where the students are extremely talented and very well
motivated, then you really have to invest a lot of effort into learning your
subject preparing your subject staying up to date with your subject as well so
it takes time and it takes commitment to make sure that you can deliver the best
possible lecture. So I think if the audience can see that you’re engaged and
they can see how they fit into the picture too then that works for a very
nice dynamic and constructive lecture environment. I always try to explain
as much as possible where I come from, where I fit into this picture that I’m
presenting and also I like to try to explain where the students fit in as
well. In all of my lectures I’ll ask questions to the students about, why do
you think things are a certain way, the kind of questions that we can’t come up
with hard or fast answers to. Why does the hormone growth hormone why is it
involved not just in growth but also in the response to fasting, where you’d
think that if you weren’t eating the last thing you’d want to do is grow. Why
do you think that is, let’s have a discussion about it, maybe come and give
me some of your ideas after the lecture. And if you can get the students to think
about the material, not just assimilate material, but actually think about it and
generate ideas of their own that’s when I think you’ve done a really good job
that’s what I would seek to achieve. You can be told everything in a lecture, you
can go and look up things in papers, you can revise, you can get a hundred percent
in an exam. But that’s not doing science, doing science is all about looking at
when things go wrong, interpreting data where no interpretation exists that you
can look up and then knowing what experiment you can do to pursue this
further and actually get to the answer that you’re seeking. And it’s only really
in practical classes that students can do this and they can engage with with
real science, so it’s absolutely vital for all of our science students, medical students,
veterinary students and of course the natural scientists, to actually get
involved to do hands-on practical work and to get a feeling for what happens in
a lab environment and how it doesn’t always work smoothly part of the
challenge is overcoming those difficulties that you come across. And
when you study an area of physiology which is as esoteric as the function of
the middle ear and small mammals, which is what I do for my research. I like to
be able to say that I’m also contributing to society by teaching
medical students, for example teaching veterinary students and teaching
scientists, so I certainly enjoy the idea that what I do benefits them and
ultimately benefits society.

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