The ASBMB Education Award: Louise Lutze-Mann

School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, University of NSW

Louise Lutze-MannDr Louise Lutze-Mann is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of NSW. She returned to UNSW in 2003 after developing the biology curriculum for a new state university in California (California State University, Channel Islands).

Louise’s research interests are the investigation of the mechanisms underlying the induction of cancer and treatment strategies based on this understanding. She has received funding from NASA, the US Department of Energy, NHMRC and Cure Cancer Australia for this work. Recently, she has been engaged in studies to investigate the relationship between cholesterol homeostasis and the growth of cancer cells. These studies analysed the effect of antipsychotic drugs on a range of cancer cell lines and the role of cholesterol synthesis and trafficking as the mode of cell death. These studies have now been expanded to investigate the efficacy of the antipsychotic drugs in reducing tumour growth in vivo.

The basis of Louise’s teaching philosophy is best conveyed by a quote by WB Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” This means that she aims to convey to students the excitement and wonder of science, to ignite their enthusiasm so that they will be inspired to pursue knowledge of their own volition. Her teaching innovations have primarily been aimed at stimulating critical thinking and independent learning in students by showing the application of problem solving in a research context. She aims to improve the student experience by providing resources that allow students to explore and reflect on the scientific process, provide exposure to modern techniques, enhance technical skills and underpin the understanding of theory.

The desire for science students is that they should undergo a sufficiently transformative process that they begin to identify as scientists. This means that they need to develop the skills, both technical and cognitive, required to gather, critically evaluate and utilise scientific information. Consequently, Louise has developed a large number of new experiential learning tools for a wide variety of class sizes (35–1000 students). She has also introduced new courses and course material and taken a leadership role in curricula revision within her school and faculty. This has been recognised by her receipt of two faculty teaching awards, a Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence and a national ALTC Citation in 2010. Louise’s involvement in educational research has been focused on a project, ‘Using Threshold Concepts to Generate a New Understanding of Teaching and Learning Biology’, which was supported by a multi-university Australian Learning and Teaching Council grant. The results of these studies have been published in a book chapter and were presented at ComBio2009 and International Conferences on Threshold Concepts in 2010 and 2012.