Nienke van Houten

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Health Sciences

  • Email:
  • Tel: 778-782-9065
  • Office: BLU 9702
  • Twitter: @nvanhout


  • PhD, Molecular Immunology and Vaccine Design, Simon Fraser University
  • BSc (honours), Biology, University of Waterloo


Dr. van Houten received her BSc (Hons) in microbiology from the University of Waterloo. She completed her PhD at the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at Simon Fraser University, specializing in molecular immunology and vaccine design. Her research focused on developing strategies for producing epitope-targeting vaccines and exploring the use of engineered filamentous phage as vaccine carriers. After completing her PhD, Dr. van Houten conducted postdoctoral research in the SFU Faculty of Health Sciences, during which she investigated the use of Hepatitis E virus-like particles as carriers for mucosal vaccines using reovirus and influenza infection models. She joined SFU Health Sciences as a lecturer in August 2010.

Teaching Interests

Dr. van Houten is passionate about understanding the function of the human body especially in the context of immunology and infectious disease. She teaches a broad range of subjects including human biology, microbiology, virology, immunology and host/pathogen interaction.  

Faculty Teaching Fellow

Dr. van Houten is interested in professional development related to teaching and learning, and providing support to her colleagues at SFU Health Sciences. In partnership with the Faculty's educational consultant, Barb Berry, she hosted the SFU Health Sciences Teaching and Learning Conversation Series, and Technology Talks and maintained a blog on teaching resources. In 2012, Dr. van Houten took on the role of Faculty Teaching Fellow (FTF) where she works with an educational consultant, SFU Teaching and Learning Center, Faculty administration and various committees.The responsibilities of the FTF includes advancing and supporting ongoing teaching and learning activities in the Faculty by:

  1. Fostering an engaged and sustained scholarly teaching and learning community in FHS
  2. Enhancing graduate level program development and renewal
  3. Facilitating undergraduate level program development and renewal
  4. Consulting with and support innovative course and/or curriculum design and/or redesign projects that enhance teaching and learning in FHS

In this role, Dr. van Houten has hosted two SFU Health Sciences teaching and learning celebrations, developed a workshop on plagiarism in faculty council, worked with instructors to introduce active learning into courses, promoted funding opportunities through the Teaching and Learning Development Grant program and worked on establishing a core community interested in scholarly inquiry. She has also hosted speakers on teaching and learning including Gary Poole from UBC, and developed guidelines for the semester prep guide.

Instructional Skills Workshop Facilitator

The Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) is an internationally recognized professional development workshop developed in BC. It is a three-day intensive workshop designed to enhance the teaching effectiveness of both new and experienced educators of adults. Facilitators guide participants through peer-reviewed lessons and reflective practice.

Dr. van Houten took part in the ISW in 2011 and underwent a transformative experience. She took the Facilitator Development Workshop in 2014 so that she can help other instructors develop their teaching practice and reinforce her own.

Teaching & Learning Development Grants

Barriers Faced by Undergraduate Students when Reading Primary Literature
(awarded December 2015)
Principal Investigator: Nienke E. van Houten, Faculty of Health Sciences

The project assessed student attitudes and approaches to reading primary life sciences literature and identified barriers that prevent students from using reading strategies that emphasize independent interpretation of results in the context of the research methods. Ultimately, the results will be used to develop interventions that enhance critical reading strategies. This study was be conducted with SFU Health Sciences students during Spring and Fall 2015.

Applying and Understanding the Scientific Method with iClicker Surveys in Human Biology (awarded Fall 2012)
Principal Investigator: Mark S. Lechner, Faculty of Health Sciences
Co-Investigator: Nienke van Houten, Faculty of Health Sciences

This study examined how the use of iClickers to obtain data and formulate hypotheses in the HSCI 100 “Human Biology” course helps students learn scientific methods concepts and if students identify themselves more as scientists through this approach. This study was completed with students during the Spring 2013 semester in two sections of HSCI 100 (D100 Burnaby and D200 Surrey).