Lois Balmer

THE 2021 SDR SCIENTIFIC EDUCATION AWARD: LOIS BALMER

School of Medical and Health Sciences

Edith Cowan University

My students are my priority and teaching excellence is something about which I am passionate. I feel excited and privileged to be contributing to the next generation of scientists. I have grown to understand that excellence in teaching involves constantly reevaluating what I am teaching and how I am teaching. I am always striving for the most creative and effective methods to maximise student learning, engagement, enjoyment, and success. The positive feedback from my students is humbling and motivates me to do even better. My dedication to teaching is demonstrated by being awarded a 2018 Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Award for outstanding contribution to student learning and being nominated by my university in both 2018 and 2019 for an Australian Award for University Teaching.

Just as my teaching is an integral part of who I am, so too is my research. I am a geneticist with a focus on the complications and genetics of diabetes. I have published widely in high impact factor journals (including Kidney International, Immunology, Nature Regenerative Medicine, Nephrology and eLife) in addition to supervising four PhD and Honours students to completion. I have won awards such as the Medical Science Week ‘Minute-to-pitch-it’ and the Medical Research Foundation Young Investigators Oral Prize and been successful in grant funding.

With the completion of my PhD in 2005 from the University of Western Australia in the field of cancer, I moved to my first postdoctoral position. During this time, I was exposed to a brand-new experience – that of undergraduate teaching. Since 2006, I have demonstrated for undergraduate molecular biology students at Edith Cowan University. While demonstrating, a senior lecturer noticed my dedication to students and how they experienced their learning. Unbeknownst to me, he started me on a journey to where I am today. My teaching journey has progressed from demonstrator, tutor, lecturer to overall Unit Coordinator. I have been employed as a lecturer on a teaching and research path at Edith Cowan University since 2014 and in 2019, I was promoted to Senior Lecturer.

I feel privileged to have been able to bring a research–teaching nexus perspective to my students by engaging with my network of research professionals. Further, I believe through the community-based initiative I have introduced, I have been able to bring a human-centred compassionate focus to students’ appreciation of their learning and future careers. Going forward, I hope and trust that the ripple effects of these transformational learning experiences will impact on the community in positive and meaningful ways.