Engineering staff shortlisted in Teaching Awards

Teaching Awards shortlistees: Dr Stephen Welch (left) and Professor Filipe Teixeira-Dias (right)
Teaching Awards shortlistees: Dr Stephen Welch (left) and Professor Filipe Teixeira-Dias (right)

Two engineering staff have been shortlisted in this year’s Teaching Awards, which recognise the best of teaching at the University of Edinburgh as voted by students.

Dr Stephen Welch and Dr Filipe Teixeira-Dias were both recognised for the quality of their teaching and positive impact on students in the annual awards, which are run by Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA).

Stephen was shortlisted for Outstanding Course for his honours year undergraduate course Fire Safety Engineering 4, while Filipe was shortlisted for Teacher of the Year – College of Science and Engineering.

Winners will be announced on Wednesday 24 May on EUSA's Facebook page.

Dr Stephen Welch

Stephen is Senior Lecturer in the School’s Edinburgh Fire Research Centre, where he teaches fire safety engineering practice at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

Stephen equips students with the engineering approaches they will need to solve real-world fire safety challenges in the built environment, including analysis of relevant regulations, codes and design principles. He helps students understand fire safety codes from the inside out, considering potential failure mechanisms, including those which may arise unexpectedly from innovations in construction materials and methods. The ultimate aim is to develop engineering competence, with a good understanding of what is actually needed for safety.

With a PhD in combustion and over 25 years of experience in research, Stephen’s teaching is underpinned by his knowledge of fire behaviour and related engineering analysis methods. He is currently working on simulations of “travelling fire”, using computer modelling to predict how a fire spreads in a compartment. These sophisticated simulations can be used to develop improved approaches for fire safety engineering design, complementing or even extending expensive full-scale tests.

Reacting to his nomination, Stephen said:

“This nomination was a very pleasant surprise, but student interest and engagement with the course has massively improved as I have adapted delivery in response to their feedback. I would like to think that it is an example of how we can improve the quality of our teaching in ongoing dialogue with our students.”

What students said about Stephen's teaching:

“Fire Safety Engineering 4 was my favourite course throughout my entire degree as it was interesting, thought-provoking and fun. My friends and I still discuss the course and course contents months after we had finished it. We now notice and discuss what fire detection systems are in place in buildings, the fire escapes required and even the width of the fire escape stairs."

“It was one of the few exams I enjoyed taking as the exam was also filled with real-life examples and felt as if you were a real Fire Safety Engineer answering your client's questions. After taking this course, I have a genuine interest and appreciation for Fire Safety and will consider a career in this sector (which I previously would not have thought of, as a mechanical engineer).”

Dr Filipe Teixeira-Dias

Filipe is Reader and Head of Mechanical Engineering. Since taking his first academic position in 1993 as Assistant Lecturer at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, Filipe has always been passionate about teaching and the interaction with students, both in and outside the classroom. He learns from observing best practice from fellow teaching academics and from the feedback he encourages students to provide.

Filipe’s research focuses on impulsive structural dynamics – using experimental and theoretical approaches to understand how materials, structures and systems behave under the effect of dynamic and impact loads.

The applications for his research are cross-disciplinary, bridging the worlds of health, sports, defence and materials science, leading to technological innovations in materials for energy absorption; protection and armour systems; sports impact and human bio-dynamics; crashworthiness; terminal ballistics; blast and shock wave dynamics; and hypervelocity impact.

In response to his nomination, Filipe said:

“I am constantly inspired by the enthusiasm of our students and colleagues and it is a real honour to be nominated and shortlisted for the EUSA Teacher of the Year (CSE) award. This is the result of the work of a very large team of dedicated and hard-working people, including our colleagues at the ETO and the course tutors over the years, without whom it would be impossible to deliver our teaching in the way we do. Thank you all!”

What students said about Filipe's teaching:

"I took […] Dynamics 4 last semester. It was simply the best course I’ve taken at uni mainly due to Filipe's commitment to teaching and the quality of all material provided. Every week I would look forward to the lectures and they would fly by as Filipe explained everything so well and so enthusiastically."

“Filipe goes above and beyond helping and teaching students. His courses are some of the best taught and best organised courses I have ever taken. […] He has also dedicated a lot of his time to helping me understand things I was struggling with […]. It has always felt like Filipe really cares about his students, which makes a big difference to our university experience.”

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