Inaugural Lecture of Prof Timothy Drysdale, Chair of Technology Enhanced Science Education


Oak Lecture Theatre, Nucleus Building, King’s Buildings, University of Edinburgh


Wednesday, September 20, 2023 - 17:30 to 19:00

Remote laboratories: a Tolkien adventure in digital education

Tolkien’s The Hobbit was inspired by the landscape of my heritage (Scotland) and filmed in the land of my birth (New Zealand). It’s possibly even an apt metaphor for my academic journey from the familiar shire to the distant lands that I now call home, with some unexpected adventures along the way. No good story is worth telling without dragons, so by the end of the talk you’ll have heard tales of risk, navigated live (remote) experiments, made a human-powered artificial intelligence, and possibly even seen a dragon roar (no promises, it’s an adventure after all). Along the way, I’ll explain how my career evolved from insect-inspired technologies for body scanning, to digital education innovations, and remote laboratories in particular. These open up some fantastic opportunities for the future of the education we offer here, as well as addressing emerging human rights concerns around open access to digital education.


Professor Timothy Drysdale is the Chair of Technology Enhanced Science Education and Director of Strategic Digital Education in the School of Engineering, having joined The University of Edinburgh in August 2018. Immediately prior to that he was a Senior Lecturer in Engineering at the Open University, where he was the founding director and lead developer of the £3M openEngineering Laboratory which was recognised by awards including the Times Higher Education Outstanding Digital Innovation 2017, The Guardian Teaching Excellence 2018, Global Online Labs Consortium Remote Experiment Award 2018, and National Instruments Global Engineering Impact Award for Education 2018. He has now completely redeveloped remote laboratories from scratch for use on traditional campuses, to address space limitations, add a science-museum aesthetic to campuses, and open up opportunities for our education that are not possible with traditional methods. Working with staff and students in the School of Engineering, his team has delivered practical work into courses ranging from large general first-year to specialist fifth-year courses via over 100 remote laboratory experiments. His discipline background is in electronics and electromagnetics, having previously worked on technologies for seeing through clothes to find weapons and contraband. His public engagement work has seen him exhibit at the British Science Festival, the Royal Society, and Buckingham Palace.

Lecture recording

You can watch this video on our YouTube or MediaHopper channels.

Further Information

Headshot of Prof Tim Drysdale, wearing navy blue suit jacket and light blue shirt
Professor Timothy Drysdale

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