Popular BPK lecturer receives SFU Excellence in Teaching Award

March 03, 2022

Congratulations to Nadine Wicks, senior lecturer in the Department of Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology (BPK), who is one of three educators to receive a 2021 SFU Excellence in Teaching Award.

As a BPK lecturer who teaches hundreds of undergraduates each year, Nadine Wicks knows what gets – and holds – students' attention: online trends.

Remember the viral phenomenon #TheDress from a few years ago? Wicks uses this to explore colour vision with her students. And she continues to successfully incorporate this tactic into her teaching to help students engage with challenging physiology concepts.

"I try to make concepts relevant and keep them current," she says. "I use the 2021 Netflix phenom Squid Game when discussing the 1950s research by Hodgkin and Huxley (using squid nerves) that laid the foundation for what we know about how our brain cells work. My hope is that by linking core concepts to contemporary themes, topics and memes, it helps the material stick."

Wicks teaches a broad range of undergraduates – from first-year non-Science majors to upper-level BPK, biology and biomedical engineering students – and a vast breadth of subjects ranging from nutrition and contemporary health to neuroscience and complex physiology. It isn't uncommon for her to teach 500 or more students a year, including 10-15% of Science's undergraduates.

When reflecting on what drew her to teaching, Wicks gratefully acknowledges that a teaching assistant position she received as a senior undergraduate was a "career-sparking opportunity" from a professor she says is “still her greatest inspiration.” "The lightbulb went on pretty quick," she recalls, "I think it was in the very first lab I TA'ed." And since then, Wicks has inspired students and colleagues alike with her passion for and dedication to teaching.

Among her colleagues, Wicks has a reputation for being a "pedagogical powerhouse" and has made significant contributions to curriculum redevelopment and teaching innovations within her department. She hones her craft through regular collaboration with SFU's Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) and Centre for Educational Excellence (CEE) and, practically, implements her knowledge through course and lab development, redesign and adaptation.

From the pandemic to the importance of inclusivity, societal changes have also found their way into Wicks' teaching. She's found ways to welcome these changes in her classrooms through spaces and resources. “This is a process,” she admits. "I try to create learning spaces where everyone is valued and use resources where all of my students can both see themselves and appreciate otherness," she explains. Wicks is also excited about how the post-pandemic era will shape academia and university teaching in the coming years.

Most importantly, despite constant change and online trends that come and go, Wicks herself embodies so many enduring values and characteristics fundamental to teaching and learning - curiosity, inquisitiveness, enthusiasm, patience and care. She's energized, inspired and motivated by others – above all, her wife and daughter, as well as outstanding colleagues and students.

"I'm lucky to be able to teach some of our BPK students from first to fourth year," she states proudly. "Watching them grow and mature over those four years is certainly one of the best parts of teaching. As is getting an email from them when they've settled on campus at their first-choice grad or med school!"

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Wicks has a BSc and MSc from SFU, received her PhD from Brown, and has been teaching full-time at SFU since 2016. She is also a past recipient of the Faculty of Science's Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching (2007) and Excellence in Teaching (2020) Awards.

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