I don't wave, I just go with the flow

September 22, 2006

Name : Andrew Folkard

Age : 39

Job : Lecturer in physical geography at Lancaster University.

Background : I studied for a degree in astrophysics at Edinburgh University, then for an MSc in remote sensing and image processing at Dundee University, where I did my PhD in geographical fluid dynamics. My research is concerned with the effects of turbulent flows on the ecology of lakes, rivers and coastal waters. I also have a growing interest in pedagogical research - I'm particularly interested in developing effective methods to enable mathematically averse students to learn quantitative skills.

Working hours and conditions : After dropping the kids off, I get to work at about 9.20am. I leave the office at about 5.15pm. I also put in a couple of hours of work at home a few times a week.

Number of students you teach : First-year student classes approach 200, second-year classes number about 120, while third-years have specialised even more and a typical class is about 35 students.

Biggest bugbear : Not enough time and money. In research terms, getting hold of funding is the biggest obstacle. As undergraduate numbers increase, there's less time for giving attention to individual students.

How did you solve it? Keeping my research focused, being clear about what I'm aiming for and trying to be imaginative about sourcing funding. With the teaching, setting up a wide range of resources using the web, library, peer support, teaching assistants and so on, and encouraging students to use the whole range. When I do have contact time with them, I try to focus on how they see a problem, rather than how I see it, and help them find their own way rather than waving my solution at them.

Worst moment in university life : Probably the first time I had a research grant application rejected. It's very competitive and you have to get used to having grant applications rejected: it is part and parcel of the job. But the first knock-back is the hardest!

Who are the most difficult people you deal with and how do you cope? Students who complain excessively and colleagues with whom I just don't get on. I try to be sympathetic to students' complaints and give them a fair hearing but if they go on too much I have to tell them that enough is enough. When I encounter difficult colleagues, I just try to have little or nothing to do with them.

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