Dr Karen A. Gresty

Year of NTFS award: 2009

Institution at time of NTFS award: University of Plymouth

I began my postdoctoral career researching fish parasites, at the Natural History Museum (London), before moving to the University of Plymouth in 1993. I started in a biology demonstrator role but progressed to teaching human biology to nursing and midwifery students. This unorthodox change of focus allowed me to become a specialist in teaching bioscience to ‘non-biologists’ (later including podiatrists, paramedics and surf scientists), finding new ways to motivate and engage students who needed to study a subject they often found intimidating. 

I became a Principal Fellow of the HEA in 2013, and held the Associate Dean Teaching & Learning role in the Faculty of Science and Engineering for nearly ten years until summer 2020.

My NTF claim was built around a reputation and ability to communicate bioscience to diverse student audiences of non-biologists. Initially, I was a marine biology researcher but after taking on a very different remit to teach biosciences to health students (as well as biologists), my research interests shifted. Health students often experience particular barriers when trying to engage with bioscience material in comparison with traditional science students. Consequently, my interest in new approaches to making biology more accessible for this group of students was awakened. This allowed me to enhance my own students’ learning, as well as providing a springboard to undertake pedagogic research and to engage the wider public in science outreach activities. 

The following was taken from my NTF application, summarising my claim for excellence: 
My acknowledged reputation for embracing innovative teaching developments shows that I am an actively engaged teacher who can inspire and motivate students. I have made many biological and healthcare issues comprehensible to non-specialist audiences, including the general public, both within and beyond the UK. I have a strong record of obtaining funding and of publishing quality pedagogic research in international peer-reviewed journals, and also of working collaboratively to support and enhance colleagues’ development to enrich student learning.

I am currently working on a faculty enhancement project regarding ‘what makes a successful STEM masters programme’, including external stakeholder engagement and cross-discipline collaboration.

The Plymouth Student Scientist is an undergraduate e-journal that publishes first class student research work. It was launched as a research-informed teaching initiative in 2008 and currently, around 350 students have seen their work published and disseminated to a global audience with many of the articles being accessed over 10,000 times. The e-journal has recently migrated to the University’s PEARL repository to ensure its longer term sustainability and is now edited by Dr Jason Truscott (in Learning Development).

My pedagogic expertise:

  • curriculum design
  • undergraduate e-journals
  • ‘risk’ in research-informed teaching.