A Swansea University academic who helped pioneer engaging ways of teaching science remotely during the pandemic has been honoured by the Royal Society of Biology.
Dr Nigel Francis, associate professor at Swansea University Medical School, has been named Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year 2021.
Every year the prestigious award seeks to identify the country’s leading bioscience teachers in higher education and recognise outstanding individuals with innovative approaches to teaching.
Dr Francis wins the £1,000 Ed Wood Memorial Prize, £250 worth of Oxford University Press books, and one year’s free membership to the Society.
He said: “To even be shortlisted as a finalist was incredible, but to be announced as the winner is a truly humbling feeling.”
Dr Francis’ teaching focuses on immunology and the development of graduate skills across all years of the undergraduate programmes.
To help ensure his students remained engaged and continued to learn in unprecedented circumstances he helped establish #DryLabsRealScience – an online collaboration network for life sciences education. It aims to provide remote solutions for lab teaching and research project through webinars, online guides, teaching resources and links.
He said: “The #DryLabsRealScience network has been such a fantastic project to be involved with and, for me, has been the highlight of what has been a challenging year for HE educators.”
The award judges were impressed by his use of videos to enhance student learning and engagement during laboratory teaching.
Dr Francis is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. In 2020 he was awarded the British Society for Immunology Teaching Excellence Award and is a recipient of Swansea University’s Excellence in Learning and Teaching Award.
He said: “I believe that for students to get the most from their education they need to be actively engaged with the learning material.”
“For me, this means providing students with the opportunity to review resources in their own time and create an environment where they are encouraged to experiment, question assumptions and most importantly not be afraid of making a mistake.”
Head of Swansea University Medical School Professor Keith Lloyd said: “It is fantastic to see Nigel’s innovative approach and passion for his subject recognised with this award. We are very proud of the work he has done to ensure our students continue to benefit from meaningful teaching during this challenging year.”
(Lead image: Swansea University)
Welsh insulation company partners with Swansea University to explore capturing carbon emissions
Brigend-based insulation company ROCKWOOL Ltd. has announced it is partnering with the Energy Safety Research Institute (ESRI) at Swansea University to research the capture of carbon dioxide.
Researchers are aiming to develop new carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) technologies that can assist Wales and the UK achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Researchers at ESRI have been working on a process called Pressure Swing Adsorption to separate carbon dioxide from a mixture of gases. To date, this has been shown to work under laboratory conditions and so the next step is to investigate how it works in a real life industrial process.
Over the next 12 months, researchers will be experimenting with different adsorbent materials and operating conditions to determine the most effective method for removing carbon dioxide. Isolating carbon dioxide from a mixed gas stream is an important step in developing opportunities for use or long term storage.
Darryl Matthews, Managing Director of ROCKWOOL Ltd, said: “Alongside ROCKWOOL Ltd.’s membership of the South Wales Industrial Cluster, I am delighted we’re partnering with Swansea University to pilot new technology designed to capture CO2 emissions and are excited about its potential in supporting the drive to Net Zero.”
The demonstration unit is being developed as part of the £11.5m Reducing Industrial Carbon Emissions (RICE) project which has been part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government and is aimed at the deployment of industrial scale demonstrations of new technology.
Darryl continued: “Taking these important steps to understand how we can develop CCUS technology further is another important piece of the decarbonisation puzzle for us as a business. The ROCKWOOL Group has long been committed to operating sustainably and in December 2020, ROCKWOOL announced commitments to accelerate the decarbonisation of our business, with specific long-term targets verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.”
Professor Andrew Barron the Principal Investigator of the RICE project summarized the achievement, “with 2050 arriving fast, the time for research is over, it is imperative to get new technology onto industrial sites in order to demonstrate viability. Partners such as ROCKWOOL are vital in achieving this goal.”
In 2020 the ROCKWOOL Group announced ambitious, science based global decarbonisation targets that have been verified and approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). The targets, which supplement existing sustainability goals, amount to an ambitious one third reduction of ROCKWOOL’s lifecycle (Scope 1, 2 and 3) greenhouse gas emissions by 2034 while at the same time continuing the reduce the carbon intensity of production.
These commitments build on ROCKWOOL’s existing status as a net carbon negative company, in that over the lifetime of its use, the building insulation ROCKWOOL sold in 2021 will save 100 times the carbon emitted in its production.
Welsh Government Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “These are the partnerships that will drive a stronger, greener Welsh economy. Putting world class expertise into practice is critical to our journey to net zero and this work means Bridgend will play a leading role in these exciting developments. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support the project through the European Regional Development Fund.”
(Lead image: ROCKWOOL)
Plans for Neath Port Talbot’s first Welsh medium primary ‘starter school’ to be discussed by new council cabinet
Plans for Neath Port Talbot’s first ever Welsh medium primary “starter school” at Neath Abbey are to be discussed by the Council’s new Rainbow Coalition Cabinet, who will meet for the first time this week.
The new school is part of the council’s strategy to increase Welsh medium education across the county borough.
At the meeting on Wednesday (29 June) the Cabinet will be asked to approve moving to the next stage in the council’s plans to establish the new Welsh Medium Starter School in premises previously occupied by Abbey Primary School at St John’s Terrace, Neath Abbey.
If fully approved, the first pupils could move in next year.
The starter school model is used when establishing a new school, gradually allowing the facilities and staff to be used efficiently while the school grows to its full potential.
A consultation exercise regarding the school has already taken place with most people broadly in favour but with some concerns aired over traffic and the age of the school building.
Under the plans, £200,000 would be set aside for refurbishments and improvements including the provision of learning walls and digital equipment ensuring the school can deliver the new curriculum.
Traffic would be monitored around the site and the school will not be fully occupied on opening but will grow year on year. Full occupancy is not expected until 2029.
This will be the first cabinet meeting of Neath Port Talbot’s new Plaid-Independent led Council, after the Independent, Plaid Cymru and Dyffryn Independent groups made an agreement to share power.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats and Green Party members will support the coalition via a confidence and supply agreement.
(Lead image: Neath Port Talbot Council)
University’s Egypt Centre in running for top museum award
Swansea University’s Egypt Centre has been shortlisted for the Kids in Museums Family Friendly Museum Award, it was announced today.
Charity Kids in Museums has run a prestigious annual award for 16 years, recognising the most family friendly heritage sites in the UK. It is the only museum award to be judged by families.
From late March to early June, families across the UK voted for their favourite heritage attraction on the Kids in Museums website. A panel of experts then whittled down hundreds of nominations to a shortlist of 16 heritage attractions.
The Egypt Centre is vying against four other museums in the Best Small Museum category.
Curator Dr Ken Griffin said: “We are thrilled to have been nominated. Since the museum opened its doors to the public in 1998, we have had a strong focus on families and young people. This includes family activities such as mummifying our dummy mummy, handling of real Egyptian antiquities, and playing the ancient board game Senet.
“To be in the running for this award recognises all the hard work undertaken by staff and our wonderful volunteers!”
The Egypt Centre is Wales’ only museum dedicated to Egyptian antiquities and houses around 6,000 objects in its collection. With a small team of staff and more than 100 enthusiastic volunteers, including Young Volunteers who run the Museum every Saturday, it boasts a popular schools programme and a variety of events, including workshops, talks and family activities.
Over the summer holidays, the museum will be visited by undercover family judges who will assess the shortlisted museums against the Kids in Museums Manifesto. Their experiences will decide a winner for each award category and an overall winner of the Family Friendly Museum Award 2022.
The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony in October.
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