Andy Cutting: Humans of BioSciences
Dr Andy Cutting is a co-coordinator and teacher of first year Biology of Cells and Organisms. He teaches all things biology - from evolution, plant circulation, the menstrual cycle and everything in between. He is part of the Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology Domain in the School of BioSciences.
What do you love most about teaching science?
Two things, hard to pick between them. I am continually forced to view my biology in new light and from a new perspective. The questions you are asked are sometimes so thoughtful but so left-field, it opens your mind up around a concept, and you start to think about something that is very familiar in a totally new way. You realise you can never fully learn something!
Passing this idea on in class, and encouraging this wide thinking in students, is so rewarding. Moving away from trying to get “the answer” and towards making conclusions based on evidence and their critical/logical thinking, then seeing the pieces fall in place (sometimes right in front of you), based on their own thinking, and then they get it, it’s amazing. You don't even need to tell them they’re correct, they know it based on their own thinking.
How have you met the challenge of teaching online?
Trial and error! Trying things and then asking for feedback. After we had a week of online teaching, I surveyed students based on technology and ease of use, online class format and use of online apps, and their general feelings about studying online/in isolation. Feedback led to designing online classes suited to students preferring to type and self-direct, and others that wanted audio visual engagement with peers, and those with interest in forming study groups.
We are limited to online teaching at present, but can do a lot to support students, and I think focusing on motivation and peer support is going to be critical to ensuring their engagement.
What do you enjoy doing outside of teaching?
I try to get sleep at least a few times a week, fit a jog into my shower time… There isn't much else at the moment, it’s all comfort focused: I love my music, practising my classical piano, baking and reading Nigella, holding out for the pool to reopen.
Do you have any advice for undergraduate students?
Take a breath, and have a good chat about what you want. It is all up to you now! It is okay to ask for help and advice.
Maybe you need time to decide exactly what you want and not sure how to go about it, or you are so excited for university that you’re a scatter brain and can’t figure out where to start. Know that this is going to be a time not only of challenging academic growth, in a way you haven’t experienced before, but also one of personal growth too - brand new experiences and personal challenges that will all happen at the same time as your assignments!
All the support in the world is there for you at university, but it is up to you to make the first step.
'Humans of BioSciences' is a special new series to introduce the School of BioSciences' undergrad and postgrad students, our academics, professional staff and associates.