Five inspiring engineering lecturers have won £10,000 each for their universities in the ExxonMobil Excellence in Teaching Awards. These new and exciting awards have been established with the Royal Academy of Engineering to identify and reward Centres of Excellence in Engineering Teaching in the UK and the Republic of Ireland.

The selected university departments selected as ExxonMobil Centres of Teaching Excellence will also have access to an extra package of benefits including priority for graduate recruitment and undergraduate work placements and invitations to site visits.

This year’s five awardees are:

Dr Euan Bain, Lecturer in the School of Engineering at the University of Aberdeen

Dr Jarka Glassey, Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering and Advanced Materials at Newcastle University

Dr Severino Pandiella, Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemical Engineering and Analytical Science at the University of Manchester

Dr Martin Pitt, Coordinator of Design Teaching in Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Sheffield

Dr Sandra Shefelbine, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London

Dr Euan Bain, 31, moved to the University of Aberdeen in 2008 after a degree and PhD in chemical and process engineering from the University of Strathclyde. In his first year there he wrote, delivered and assessed four new courses as part of the initial year of honours level teaching on the University’s newly inaugurated chemical engineering programme. Enthused by his experience of summer placements with British Energy and BP during his own studies, he now incorporates site visits or industry involvement in the courses he teaches wherever possible.

“My goal is to develop a research lab which accepts undergraduates as research assistants not only during the summer but also during the weeks of formal teaching,” he says. “This is a culture that I have experienced in the US and it is invaluable for engaging undergraduates in research.”

Dr Jarka Glassey, 43, has been a Senior Lecturer at Newcastle University since 2005, following a degree in chemical engineering from the Slovak Technical University in Bratislava and a PhD in Biochemical Engineering at Newcastle. Her research is in bioprocessing and modeling bioprocesses, currently concentrating on the production of polyunsaturated fatty acid by marine organisms. She has introduced many innovations into teaching in her department, from the simplest ice-breaker activities for stage 1 students to an advanced training course for postgraduates and industrialists from across Europe on bioprocess modeling and control.

“I am passionately committed to improving the quality of teaching of chemical engineering nationally and internationally,” she says. “As the Director of Teaching in the School of Chemical Engineering I spearheaded a major curriculum review process resulting in a modern, exciting and industrially relevant degree programme producing top quality graduates ready to address the future challenges facing chemical engineering profession.”

Dr Severino Pandiella, 45, has a degree and PhD in chemical engineering from the University of Oviedo and joined the University of Manchester in 1997 to teach undergraduates about transport phenomena and process fluid dynamics. He is director of the very popular MEng programme in chemical engineering with industrial experience, the largest course of its kind in the UK. He has also built up a strong programme of student exchanges with universities around the world.

“Manchester has one of the largest chemical engineering schools in Europe,” he says. “Located in the birthplace of the industrial revolution, it is a vital centre for the recruitment of chemical engineers and I look forward to developing our unique study programme even further.”

Dr Martin Pitt, 62, joined the University of Sheffield as a Senior Lecturer in 1995, following ten years as a Lecturer at another University. Prior to this he had a career in industry, including working as a project engineer and manager of a chemical plant. He then took a PhD at Loughborough University as a mature student and embarked on a new career in academia with a mission to help all students to achieve their potential, by understanding their varying backgrounds and learning styles and using his industrial experience to help. He has continually evolved novel teaching methods using new technology and produced his own open internet resources even before Google was available.

“I have studied in many different ways myself,” he says, “and my industrial experience helps me to focus on the purpose of study. When becoming an academic, I treated it like an engineering project, finding out about theories of education and scoping out the aims of academic courses. All that preparation is worthwhile when my graduates come back to express their gratitude.”

Dr Sandra Shefelbine, 35, has degrees from Princeton and Cambridge Universities and a PhD in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and joined Imperial College in 2005 to study bone growth, biomechanics and response to injury. She has developed innovative teaching methods and uses classroom technology, such as real-time data collection, to engage students better in learning about mechanics. She combines managing her research group and a busy teaching schedule with raising two young children of her own.

Sandra says: “The most direct achievement in teaching is when the light bulb goes on in the student’s head and they say ‘oh, I get it!’. In a university teaching is often seen as what you have to do while research is what you want to do. I became an academic because I like both and I have put extra effort into my teaching because I enjoy it.”

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  2. Candidates for the ExxonMobil Excellence in Teaching Awards must have distinguished themselves within their peer group by showing a strong and continuing commitment to teaching, professional activities, promoting engineering as a rewarding and creative career, establishing industrial-academic links and other activities which ultimately ensure the output of top quality graduate engineers.

    Each selected candidate’s university department will be recognised as an ‘ExxonMobil Centre of Teaching Excellence’ for 12 months and will receive a cheque for £10,000.

    In addition they will have the opportunity to develop a bespoke engagement plan with ExxonMobil which may involve a range of enrichment and industrial contact activities including:
    • priority for graduate recruitment;
    • priority for undergraduate work placements;
    • access to the most up-to-date case study teaching material;
    • invitations for site visits.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636; email: Jane Sutton