Meet one of our top teachers: Cather Simpson

University of Auckland teachers or teaching teams have won 19 National Tertiary Teaching Excellence Awards, one in every year but one since their inception in 2002.

The awards recognise and celebrate New Zealand’s finest tertiary teachers and this year three of the ten awards went to University of Auckland teachers.

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Associate Professor Cather Simpson

Associate Professor Cather Simpson was appointed jointly to the School of Chemical Sciences and Department of Physics in 2007 and is now Associate Director of the Dan Walls Centre for Pure and Applied Optics and the Director of the Photon Factory, a modern multi-user laser facility. This centre provides laser light to a wide variety of scientists and engineers users to enable success in their research projects.

Cather’s teaching philosophy is to help students learn what they need to succeed in their own lives, and she fosters an ethos of independence and self-motivation in students. Active and co-operative learning are central to Cather’s classes, encouraged through activities such as “convince your neighbour” sessions, group problem solving and “problem of the day” exercises.

Cather now plans to develop a web-portal, where school students can upload ideas about microfluidic flow - an initial topic. “We’ll then convert these ideas to paper widgets with our lasers, and send them back through the post, so students can test their hypotheses, draw conclusions and then report findings back on the website.”
In 2012, Cather trialled the idea in physics teacher workshops with great success and she says she is now delighted to have funds to pay a University student to develop the interactive web-portal.

Read more information about the University’s Teaching and Learning

More information on the National Teaching Awards