Location:
Vancouver General Hospital
work phone: 604-822-0322

Niamh has three main portfolios in her position as an Associate Professor at UBC, namely:

  • A Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine portfolio, which engages her in designing innovative approaches to teaching and learning
  • A Faculty of Medicine portfolio, which engages her as a member of the leadership team designing UBC’s distributed medical education program
  • A University portfolio, which engages her as part of the Service Learning initiative, bringing science students into the community to teach science to children.

These three portfolios cut across the divide of teaching, research and service, facilitating Niamh’s engagement in all three of these University activities:

  • With regard to teaching, Niamh has taught large second year science classes, small PBL groups, an online course and science students engaged in teaching hands-on science to children. She has taught in the Faculties of Medicine, Science and Education. As a teacher, she does not see her role as the deliverer of knowledge, rather, she sees that the teacher should facilitate the student in their search for, and understanding of, knowledge. Niamh’s signature course is an online case-based learning course “Bacterial Infection in Humans”, which she delivers out of the Pathology department (PATH417). Students engage with the course content by working their way through infectious disease cases. The learning process starts with a self-directed exercise using e-portfolios; this is followed by the students checking their understanding of the material with their peers in small online group forums; and, finally, the students submit their understanding of the cases to the instructors for feedback. The course concentrates entirely on the learning (rather than the teaching) process and has attracted students from all over Canada, along with faculty interest from other Universities and Colleges.Niamh’s other main educational role is in the design, and delivery, of the basic science curriculum in UBC’s undergraduate medical curriculum. UBC’s medical program engages a hybrid approach of PBL and lectures to deliver the basic sciences in a systems based curriculum, delivered in 14 ‘blocks’ over two years. Niamh has been a PBL tutor in most of these blocks, has led the development and delivery of the Host Defence and Infection block, and, currently oversees the planning and delivery of the basic science curriculum in UBC’s distributed medical program. As a key player in the design and delivery of UBC’s distributed medical program, which delivers UBC’s medical program to three distinct University campuses (in British Columbia) separated by water and approx. 500 miles (or 800 km) of land, she has been at the forefront in the promotion, design, and delivery of Web based learning initiatives.Niamh’s involvement in the Universities educational mandate has been recognised in numerous citations and awards, including the University of British Columbia Killam Teaching Prize, (the Universities premier teaching award).
  • With regard to research, Niamh has left behind a basic science research career (with over 20 publications and two patent applications) and switched to researching (her) educational practice. Her research is currently focused on:
    1) applying the ‘Seven Principles of Excellence in Undergraduate Education’ (Chickering and Gamson, 1989) to an analysis of the learning taking place in the online Bacterial Infection in Humans course
    2) the evaluation of a peer feedback component designed for, and introduced into, the medical programs professionalism curriculum
    3) a research program which is examining how our learners become oriented to, and engage in, PBL
  • In addition to her educational and research initiatives, Niamh has embraced UBC’s commitment to Service Learning. Already engaged in delivering science to school children, in an outreach capacity, Niamh was invited to join the ‘Presidents Committee for the establishment of a Downtown Presence’ soon after Martha Piper joined UBC as President in 1997. Through this initiative, Niamh began to engage science students alongside her in her science outreach role. Working with faculty members in the faculty of education, she secured funding from the Imperial Oil Foundation to grow this program and designed a 3 credit course on science teaching as a part of this Service Learning initiative. To date, over 100 university students have engaged with Niamh’s hands-on science program, delivered through Science World and in elementary schools. In addition to teaching children, Niamh works with (pre-school and elementary school) parent groups and teachers in encouraging, and instructing, them on how to engage children in the scientific process. In her effort to deliver the learning associated with doing science to children, Niamh uses what she coins as a ‘trickle down learning’ approach. She excites teachers, parents and University students in the process of doing engaging science experiments and, in turn, facilitates them delivering this learning to (their) children. Niamh reaches as far back as the pre-school audience in an attempt to train the next generation of scientific thinkers

Academic background

  • PhD, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, Microbiology. 1985
  • BA (Mod.), Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, Microbiology. 1979