The 2015 Beckman Coulter Education Award: Peter Arthur

School of Chemistry and Biochemistry
University of Western Australia

Arthur Dr Peter Arthur is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Western Australia (UWA). Peter is a research active academic who is also keen to be an effective teacher.

Peter’s research focus is on the molecular actions of reactive oxygen species (ROS), also known as free radicals. Excessive ROS can overwhelm the body’s antioxidant defences and lead to oxidative stress, which is thought to contribute to the complications of many chronic and lifestyle diseases. However, ROS are not all bad because they are also involved in normal physiological processes. Peter’s work in unravelling the actions of ROS has involved collaborations with anatomists, chemists, clinicians, exercise scientists, physiologists, anatomists, zoologists and neuroscientists.

Peter has extensive experience in undergraduate teaching, with class sizes ranging from 10 to over 600 students at UWA in Perth and Singapore. Effective teaching is hard – there is the constant challenge of keeping the teaching experience relevant to students as the teaching environment undergoes fundamental changes.

As active research scientists, Peter and his colleagues identified undergraduate laboratories as a fantastic opportunity to train the next generation of students in skills applicable to modern biochemistry and molecular biology, and general problem solving. A contemporary undergraduate laboratory also has the potential to raise the profile of science and distinguish an institution as offering a more personalised educational experience.

To provide students with a contemporary, engaging and relevant learning experience, as well as emphasise the importance of laboratory teaching when teaching costs are being scrutinised, Peter has worked collaboratively with colleagues Professor Paul Atwood and Dr Martha Ludwig to revitalise the laboratory experience. This team has developed an approach to laboratory teaching that engages students, utilises online learning, allows two-way staff–student feedback, and promotes reviews based on quantitative analyses.

Peter, Martha and Paul will be at the ASBMB conference in Melbourne and will discuss the team’s rationale and experiences in designing this new laboratory program and will be looking for suggestions on how to further improve the student experience.