The 2019 Pilkington Prizes were awarded last night (25th June) to thirteen highly gifted and committed teachers from a variety of disciplines. This year’s prizewinners demonstrate an impressive array of achievements, including developing innovative courses from scratch, incorporating the latest research into undergraduate teaching, pioneering the creative use of technology to support learning, and supporting and encouraging inclusive teaching.

The prizewinners showcase many of the qualities that make Cambridge teaching exceptional

Professor Graham Virgo

The prizes were presented by Professor Graham Virgo, Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education.

Professor Virgo said: “We are extremely proud of the outstanding education we deliver at Cambridge. The prizewinners showcase many of the qualities that make Cambridge teaching exceptional. From creative curriculum design to engagement with world-leading research, from support for outreach and inclusivity to careful and committed personal attention in supervisions, our students have benefitted immensely from the imagination and dedication shown by the recipients of this year’s awards.”

This year’s ceremony was held at Girton College, which is celebrating two anniversaries: 150 years since its foundation as the UK's first residential College for women to study in higher education and 40 years since the College became co-educational. 10 Girton Fellows have previously been awarded Pilkington Prizes.

The 2019 Pilkington Prize winners are;

Dr Ruth Abbott, Faculty of English

A three-time winner at CUSU’s student-led teaching awards, Dr Abbott’s students attest to the life-changing experience of being taught by her. She is deeply committed to outreach, diversity and equality, and has worked tirelessly to make teaching spaces safe and enabling.

Professor Catherine Barnard, Faculty of Law

Professor Barnard consistently receives outstanding feedback from the 200+ students who take her compulsory core course on European Union law every year. There is a strong synergy between her world-leading research and her teaching, and she also undertakes extensive public engagement, particularly in relation to Brexit, on which she is a sought-after commentator.

Dr Cecilia Brassett, Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience

As the University Clinical Anatomist, Dr Brassett has pioneered the innovative use of technology to supplement traditional dissection demonstrations in the teaching of anatomy. She has also led the creation of a new Biological and Biomedical sciences module within the Natural Sciences Tripos, undertaken extensive teaching and examination duties, and engaged in vital public engagement and outreach work through the Festival of Ideas and working with the Sutton Trust.

Dr Manali Desai, Department of Sociology

Dr Desai has helped to deliver improvements in teaching at every level in the department, from slight adjustments in classroom delivery to macro-level reforms of the curriculum. She works on a continuous feedback basis, incorporating immediate change where possible, and working creatively and collaboratively to plan and deliver larger reforms where necessary.

Dr Sonja Dunbar, Department of Plant Sciences

Dr Dunbar is not only an outstanding and dedicated teacher herself, she is also committed to improving the educational experience of all students in her department. She has undertaken research into how students access scientific papers (which is now informing departmental practices), introduced new teaching methods, led course reform, revised teaching materials, and personally recruited and trained supervisors to ensure students receive teaching of outstanding quality.

Dr Midge Gillies, Institute of Continuing Education

As Institute Teaching Officer in Creative Writing, Dr Gillies is remarkably skilled at adapting her teaching to the diverse needs and experiences of students in continuing education, acting as expert tutor and critical friend to learners from a wide range of backgrounds and with a wide range of writing projects. She is a driving force for change, helping bring new courses and projects to fruition, in particular the new University of Cambridge Centre for Creative Writing.

Dr Jessica Gwynne, Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy

Dr Gwynne has revolutionised teaching in her department, helping to make Materials Science one of the most popular options in the Natural Sciences Tripos. She has a passion for helping students to reach their full potential, and plays an energetic role in all aspects of departmental teaching, including lecturing on a wide range of subjects, course coordination, examining, outreach, and training and motivating staff involved in teaching.

Dr Cesare Hall, Department of Engineering

Dr Hall was voted best Part 1A lecturer in his department for two years running, and is known for his fun and accessible thermodynamics lecturers featuring live experimental demonstrations. His research, on new propulsion technology to reduce emissions from aircraft, features heavily in his teaching. He is also committed to access and outreach and regularly delivers engineering masterclasses and admissions talks.              

Dr Liz Hook, Department of Pathology

Dr Hook has transformed Clinical Pathology teaching from a traditional lecture-based course into an interactive, clinically-integrated programme featuring innovative e-learning modules and a new exam structure with practical assessment. She receives glowing student feedback for her engaging teaching.

Dr Nikku Madhusudhan, Institute of Astronomy

Dr Madhusudhan introduced a novel course on the theory of extrasolar planets which has no precedent in Cambridge or elsewhere. He used a combination of the latest research literature, innovative pedagogical techniques, web-based tools and his engaging lecturing style to create a very successful course receiving excellent student reviews. He regularly goes above and beyond for his students with extra supervisions, careers guidance, and special consideration for inclusive teaching.

Dr Laura Moretti, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Dr Moretti’s innovative approach to her flagship course in Classical Japanese has resulted in a dramatic increase in students opting for the paper. She is equally fervent in developing educational opportunities for younger scholars and professionals, students in Japan and the general public, and has developed and run multiple summer schools in Asian and Japanese studies for different audiences.

Professor Anna Philpott, School of Clinical Medicine

Professor Philpott has conceived, designed and implemented a highly innovative MRes/PhD programme in cancer biology and medicine which substantially extends the reach of graduate teaching in this important and cross-cutting discipline at Cambridge. Throughout her career she has championed diversity and has sought in particular to mentor younger female trainees, to encourage them to reach their full potential.

Professor Simone Teufel, Department of Computer Science and Technology

Professor Teufel was the main author of a new Part IA course in Machine Learning for Real World Data which her colleagues consider exceptionally innovative in its design, content and mode of delivery, unlike any equivalent course anywhere else in the world. The course was enthusiastically received by students and was key to the Department’s successful expansion of its first-year undergraduate teaching and restructuring of the Tripos to deliver more practical experience.

The Pilkington Prizes were initiated by Sir Alastair Pilkington – graduate of Trinity College, engineer, businessman and the first Chairman of the Cambridge Foundation – who passionately believed that teaching excellence was crucial to Cambridge’s future success. Largely as a result of his efforts, and supported by a significant personal donation, the University’s Pilkington Prizes Fund was created in 1992. More recently, the Fund was augmented with a generous donation from the late Clifford Anthony Ingram.




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