30 September 2015

Teacher of the Year at SCIENCE award goes to chemist

Teacher of the year 2015

There were hors d’oeuvres and students, research colleagues and bubbles. There was an extremely proud Department Head, and a deeply touched award recipient. The occasion? All were on hand on September 17 to celebrate Department of Chemistry Associate Professor Michael Pittelkow as Teacher of the Year at SCIENCE 2015.

In his address to Pittelkow, Head of Department Michael Bols thanked the associate professor for the honour that his award bestows upon the department, while congratulating Pittelkow directly for being such a great lecturer. “Last year as well, a chemist received the Teacher of the Year award. So, the Faculty panel probably would have preferred to award it to another academic department. But you are impossible to ignore. You are exceptional,” stated Bols.

In his own thank-you speech, Pittelkow said that he expects to see another chemist as next year’s teaching award recipient.

“There are so many instructors at chemistry who deserve this award more than me,” said the associate professor.

The main ingredient in Pittelkow’s recipe for being a good instructor is to spy over the shoulders of the colleagues he admires most. Among the things that he has picked up from them is to always keep in mind who he is talking to, and to be at eye level with them.

“It’s not as easy as it sounds, and requires plenty of preparation,” said the associate professor. “As an instructor, how does one know when one has performed well? Whatever the answer to that is, poor performance is always reflected in a bad conscience.”

So, whom does Pittelkow admire? Quite simply, instructors who are first and foremost accomplished researchers. During Pittelkow’s time at Cambridge as a Postdoc, he picked up on a Cambridge-Oxford tease that characterized Cambridge as having good researchers who taught, while Oxford had good lecturers, who also happened to conduct research.

"At the Department of Chemistry, we must always try to be researchers first, and then instructors... because being seen in the lab garners respect from students!

Michael Pittelkow

Associate Professor

Department of Chemistry

University of Copenhagen

“At the Department of Chemistry, we must always try to be researchers first, and then instructors. It is important to be there, scraping away at burnt flasks, because being seen in the lab garners respect from students,” according to Pittelkow.

The Faculty of Science’s Associate Dean for Education, Grethe Berthelsen, is delighted that the teaching award has been presented to an instructor the likes of Pittelkow.

“This award is intended to showcase effective instruction, strong educational teams and outstanding instructors. The students who nominated Pittelkow emphasised his ability to create a supportive environment where creativity and academic discussion flourish. We need to value and celebrate it when instructors make an extra effort to develop exceptional instruction,” says Berthelsen.