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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning


The Pilkington Prize ceremony was this year held on Tuesday 25th June at Girton College, which is also celebrating 150 years since its foundation and 40 years since it became co-educational. The ten Girton Fellows who have previously been awarded the Pilkington Prize were invited to this year's ceremony.


Professor Graham Virgo, who awarded the Prizes, said:

"We are extremely proud of the outstanding education we deliver at Cambridge. The prizewinners showcase many of the qualities that make Cambridge teaching exceptional.

From creative curriculum design to engagement with world-leading research, from support for outreach and inclusivity to careful and committed personal attention in supervisions, our students have benefitted immensely from the imagination and dedication shown by the recipients of this year's awards."


View the full programme



Prize Winners 2019


Dr Ruth Abbott | Faculty of English

Dr Abbott is a remarkable teacher: deeply committed to education at all levels and to widening participation at Cambridge. Students in her classes, lectures and supervisions all attest to the life-changing experience of being taught by her. She develops innovative modes of delivery, provides hands-on experience of working with manuscripts, and enables her students to achieve at the highest level.

Dr Abbott’s outreach work is also exemplary, helping to diminish the common perception of the forbidding nature of a university education. She is committed to diversity and equality in all she does and has been at the forefront of the University’s campaign to make our teaching spaces safe and enabling. The Cambridge Student Union has already recognised her significant contribution as a teacher three times, and so it is fitting that Dr Abbott also be the recipient of a Pilkington Prize.


Prof. Catherine Barnard | Faculty of Law

Prof. Barnard is one of the most dedicated, diligent and effective members of the Faculty of Law and, since she joined the Faculty in 1995, has consistently been one of our top-rated lecturers. Prof. Barnard is a world leader in the field of European Union Law, and the more than 200 students taking the compulsory core undergraduate course she convenes on the subject greatly value the benefits that flow from being taught by someone of Prof. Barnard’s standing, who is moreover very skilled in developing strong synergies between her teaching and research. The fact that student feedback has remained outstanding with Brexit reshaping Britain’s relationship with the European Union is a particular testament to her teaching prowess.

Prof. Barnard also lectures in Labour Law, a popular optional subject for third-year undergraduate students, and in the LLM EU Trade Law and Advanced Labour Law courses. She combines in an unparalleled manner high-profile research, extensive public engagement via the media (particularly in relation to Brexit) and outstanding credentials as a teacher.


Dr Cecilia Brassett | Department of Physiology, Development & Neuroscience

In her role as Clinical Anatomist, Dr Brassett has introduced 21st Century technology into the Dissection Room, building on the techniques of anatomical learning through dissection of cadavers pioneered 460 years ago by John Caius. Under Dr Brassett’s leadership the Dissection Room now has large wall-mounted touchscreens which allow students to explore digital atlases whilst working collaboratively within groups, forming a dynamic and modern environment. She has also introduced patient demonstrations to augment cadaveric observations, revived dissection demonstrations, introduced small-group tutorials within the Dissection Room and encouraged clinical students to return, years after leaving, to refresh their knowledge.

Dr Brassett’s teaching quality is rated as excellent by the students, and surgical specialists from outside compete for the opportunity to teach within the Dissection Room, which is a National Centre of Excellence, hosting major conferences and anatomy training programmes. Her promotion of Anatomy is manifold: she has driven the creation of a new Biological and Biomedical Sciences module within the Natural Sciences Tripos, acted as a course organiser and senior examiner, taught courses for clinicians and supervised research projects for Part II students working collaboratively with surgeons. Finally, Dr Brassett engages extensively with vital outreach work, presenting at the Festival of Ideas and working with the Sutton Trust and Target Oxbridge.


Dr Manali Desai | Department of Sociology

Dr Desai is widely revered as a skilled and experienced leader of pedagogical innovation, and she has drawn on her considerable talent to deliver improvements at every level of our teaching – from the introductory undergraduate paper to the MPhil and PhD programmes. She works efficiently and thoughtfully, while also inclusively and creatively, to generate a team approach to curriculum improvements. She is highly skilled in both eliciting and using student feedback, but she is quick to incorporate suggestions from colleagues and peers as well.

At root, Dr Desai is effective not only because she really cares and is deeply committed to the difference more inclusive – and better – teaching methods can make, but because she has acquired so much experience over many years, and at several institutions, in designing and implementing changes that count. These changes are both large and small: from slight adjustments to classroom delivery to macro-level reforms of the curriculum. She works on a continuous feedback basis, incorporating immediate changes where possible, and devising means to deliver other, more overarching reforms, at the appropriate points in the annual cycle. She is highly respected and valued by students and colleagues alike, who seek her out to solve problems for which they cannot find remedies elsewhere. Dr Desai is truly a teacher who makes education count.


Dr Sonja Dunbar | Department of Plant Sciences

Dr Dunbar makes an exceptional contribution to the teaching of Plant Sciences in Part 1 of the Natural Sciences Tripos. An Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and College Lecturer at Churchill, her published research on how students access scientific literature is now being applied in the Department’s training. She has reformed practical teaching, field work and assessment in the second-year Plant and Microbial Sciences course to encourage hypothesis-driven research by students, rather than merely following a given protocol. She has introduced new teaching methods in her practicals and lectures, such as Team Readiness Assurance Tests, and provides exemplary levels of feedback. Her reform of University Teaching Officers’ teaching materials has supported marked improvements in student appreciation and she continues to inform the pedagogy of the Department.

In addition to her own supervisory work (which showcases inclusiveness, rigour and enthusiasm), Dr Dunbar recruits, trains and observes supervisors to ensure outstanding student support. Her enthusiasm and dedication are pivotal to the recruitment of students to Plant Sciences and to outreach activities (such as Institute of Continuing Education lectures, Cambridge Hands-On Science, Masterclasses and Open Days). Her mentoring and support of students includes novel teaching tools on Moodle and blog posts sharing teaching activities with the wider community. Dr Dunbar has received exceptional endorsements from students and staff alike; her tireless work is greatly appreciated by all.


Dr Midge Gillies | Institute of Continuing Education

Since joining the Institute of Continuing Education as Institute Teaching Officer in Creative Writing, Dr Gillies has consistently and effectively demonstrated excellence in continuing education teaching. As a published author and skilled educator she has the unusual and highly valuable ability to place every student at the heart of her approach. Irrespective of whether the learner is a Master’s student completing a finely tuned piece of writing, a mature student with complex needs accessing higher education for the first time, or a lifelong learner writing to make sense of their own experiences, Dr Gillies plays the role of expert tutor and critical friend.

Her tailored and inclusive approach, clever wit and shared sense of purpose with her students and teams of tutors mean Dr Gillies is the lynchpin of many creative writing learning communities. She is an innovator, bringing new courses and projects to fruition, and is a driving force behind the new University of Cambridge Centre for Creative Writing. She is herself a lifelong learning role model after recently completing her PhD at the University of East Anglia. In summary, Dr Gillies is the epitome of a world-class continuing education professional – and those at the Institute of Continuing Education expressed their fortune to have her as a colleague.


Dr Jessica Gwynne | Department of Materials Science & Metallurgy

Dr Gwynne has completely revolutionised teaching in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy since she was appointed as a Departmental Teaching Fellow in 2013. In addition to her outstanding lecturing, both in terms of its quality and quantity, on subjects ranging from bio- to nuclear materials, her passion for the subject and dedication to helping students achieve their full potential has helped to make Materials Science one of the most popular subject options in the Natural Sciences Tripos. Alongside colleagues, she helped to manage the entire Department’s teaching and examining duties, restructured the management systems for projects and practicals, and played a key role in training and motivating staff involved in teaching.

Dr Gwynne stepped into the role of Director of Undergraduate Teaching with aplomb after the departure of the previous Director, yet continues to act as supervisor, mentor and Director of Studies for students in Department and in College. She also manages subject Open Days and outreach activities such as the Inspire and Headstart courses, which actively promote widening participation in our subject. Dr Gwynne is highly respected and well-liked by students and colleagues and is an outstanding role model for scientists from all backgrounds.


Dr Cesare Hall | Department of Engineering

Dr Hall, a Fellow of King’s College and an Assistant Admissions Tutor, has taught and assessed across all four years of undergraduate engineering. He currently lectures courses in both the first and second years, and has made first-year thermodynamics fun and relevant to all students by presenting the key concepts through live experimental demonstrations combined with example problems. Student feedback is excellent and the course is highly popular: he was voted 1A best lecturer for two consecutive years.

Dr Hall’s research is in the area of new propulsion technology to reduce emissions from aircraft and this features heavily in his teaching of the second-year aerothermal elective, and a fourth-year coursework module on aviation and the environment. Further to all of this, Dr Hall is committed to access and outreach, regularly delivering engineering masterclasses and admissions talks at both school visits and university events.


Dr Liz Hook | Department of Pathology

Since 2015, Dr Hook has transformed Clinical Pathology teaching from a traditional lecture-based course into an interactive, clinically-integrated programme focusing on the practical application of pathology in clinical practice. Dr Hook is passionate about the use of technology in learning, developing e-learning modules (including some student-authored), and innovative group work in the Clinical School’s new e-learning suite. Additionally, she has delivered new MB Part II exams, focusing on relevant practical assessment of understanding and interpretation of Pathology, and has developed a comprehensive package of preparation resources, including practice questions and additional faculty-led examination sessions, together with intensive remedial sessions for students who have been unsuccessful in their first attempt.

Dr Hook’s teaching excellence is reflected in the glowing feedback she receives from students. For example, one student commented “she really transformed the Pathology course into something incredibly clinically-relevant and engaging. She also went out of her way to reassure and support us throughout our learning process.” Dr Hook is an outstanding clinical teacher and one of the most inspirational educators in the School of Clinical Medicine. Her colleagues are delighted to nominate her for a Pilkington Prize.


Dr Nikku Madhusudhan | Institute of Astronomy

Dr Madhusudhan is recognised for his innovative and passionate lectures and for going beyond the call for duty in helping students in various ways. At the Institute of Astronomy, he introduced a novel intensive course on the theory of extrasolar planets: a particularly challenging course to develop because it covers a broad range of topics in a new and fast-moving field, beyond the reach of standard textbooks, and had no precedent at Cambridge or elsewhere. Nevertheless, he used a combination of latest research literature, innovative pedagogical techniques, web-based tools and his engaging lecturing style to create a very successful course receiving excellent student reviews.

More importantly, student responses reveal that Dr Madhusudhan’s deep dedication to teaching extends well beyond the classroom, spanning extra supervisions and lectures, career guidance and special considerations for inclusive teaching. His dedication in teaching has received outstanding reviews internationally. Dr Madhusudhan’s overall excellence in teaching makes him truly deserving of the Pilkington Prize.


Dr Laura Moretti | Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies

Dr Moretti’s teaching reflects her passion for her subject and inspires genuine enthusiasm for premodern Japanese literature in students with no prior experience. She teaches an unprecedented variety of papers in the Japanese Tripos, including translation at all levels, and is an indispensable member of the team. Her flagship course is Classical Japanese, where she has developed and applied an entirely innovative approach that has resulted in a dramatic increase in students opting for the paper.

Dr Moretti’s unique drive and commitment is not limited to creating the best possible curriculum, however; she is equally fervent in developing educational opportunities for younger scholars and professionals, students in Japan and the general public. She is the Faculty’s Outreach Coordinator and has run an Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Sutton Trust summer school, developed two college-based graduate summer schools in Japanese Studies, and collaborated with a colleague in Persian Studies to offer a University Summer School course on manuscripts which received rave reviews.


Prof. Anna Philpott | School of Clinical Medicine

Prof. Philpott is nominated for her outstanding leadership in graduate education in the Graduate School of Life Sciences. This has culminated in her conceiving, designing and implementing a highly innovative MRes/PhD programme in her role as Training Director for the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre. The course combines research rotations, a ground-breaking patient-facing experience for non-clinical students, and a new series of lectures in Cancer Medicine. She led the recruitment, strategy, management and vision for this outstanding programme, which substantially extends the reach of graduate-level teaching in this important and cross-cutting discipline across the University.

Seeking to design and deliver excellent training in Cancer Biology and Medicine, Prof. Philpott never loses sight of the best interests of individual students, and this philosophy lies at the heart of the programme she delivers. She is an inspirational and dedicated teacher, lecturing in the Natural Sciences Tripos, and is a Director of Studies and supervisor at Clare College. Throughout her career she has championed diversity and has sought in particular to mentor younger female trainees, to encourage them to reach their full potential, with warmth and humour.


Prof. Simone Teufel | Department of Computer Science & Technology

Prof. Teufel was the main author of the Computer Science Part 1A Machine Learning for Real World Data course which ran for the first time in 2017. She created the syllabus, designed the practicals, oversaw the creation of the software and developed most of the lecturing material. This course combines teaching the fundamentals of machine learning with reinforcing students’ understanding of programming and algorithms, and is taught from an experimental / methodological perspective to complement the more ‘standard’ theoretical machine learning courses.

Prof. Teufel has created an exceptionally innovative course, from its design and content through to its mode of delivery: we are not aware of anything similar anywhere else in the world. Her course has been enthusiastically received by students and was key to the Department’s successful expansion of its first-year undergraduate teaching and restructuring of the Tripos to deliver more practical experience.


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