Teaching excellence

Patrick von Aderkas
Dr. Patrick von Aderkas Award for Teaching Excellence, 2015-16

Science recognizes the quality and impact of our faculty annually by presenting an Award for Teaching Excellence.

Check out our previous winners.

2015-16 Award for Teaching Excellence

Patrick von Aderkas, Biology

Dr. Patrick von Aderkas is a Professor in the Department of Biology and the Centre for Forest Biology.  He is a botanist with an encyclopedic knowledge of classical botany, who uses the latest molecular techniques in his research program on the reproductive biology of gymnosperms.  Patrick has been teaching in the Faculty since 1990, and his teaching excellence was recognized early by the Biology Undergraduate Society Teaching Award in 1993.  Through the years, Patrick has continued to educate and inspire thousands of undergraduate and graduate students, to develop exciting new courses and course material, to advance the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in the Department of Biology, and to participate in community outreach.

Patrick teaches anatomy, development, physiology, genetics and evolution of plants.  He teaches at all levels, from first-year, introductory biology classes with hundreds of students to graduate courses on plant anatomy. While many students come with the preconception that plants are boring, Patrick shows them that plants are anything but dull, unresponsive organisms.  His energy and charisma capture his audience and lead them to see the world in new ways.  Whether it be his re-enactment of how trees grow, or his explosive demonstrations of the use of club moss spores as flash powder in Elizabethan theatre, you can’t help but be involved in Patrick’s lectures.    

Patrick is a strong proponent of experiential learning.  He has developed labs for all the courses he has designed and teaches these labs himself.  He gives generously of his time to undergraduate students looking for research experience.  He has mentored 34 Honours and Directed Studies students over his time at UVic – an average of more than one per year.  His success in inspiring these students is evident, as more than one third continued on to postgraduate studies.

Patrick’s recipe for teaching success is three-fold:

1. He creates a sense of community in his classes by creating significant opportunities for personal interaction.  He shows the students that he cares for their welfare and is willing to go the extra mile to ensure their success.

2. He creates well-structured lectures and memorable examples.  Students frequently bring their friends and family to class to enjoy Patrick’s demonstrations.  One student even brought the family dog!  The dog slept soundly.

3. He pays attention to struggling students – from first-year students struggling in the overwhelming new world of academia, to graduate students struggling to complete their theses, Patrick is there with knowledge, wise advice and a helpful hand.  A product of his efforts to help students with their struggles to communicate is his successful book “Making Sense in the Life Sciences: A Student’s Guide to Writing and Research”.  This book teaches students how to master the basic elements of scientific writing and is used in many Canadian universities.

Patrick aims to seed new ideas into his student’s minds, rather than making them memorize facts, which are as quickly forgotten as memorized.  He wants students to start thinking, to be critical and to become fascinated by the world of science.  His passion is contagious.  In the words of a student…”Thank you, Dr. von Aderkas for being my absolute hands-down favorite professor at UVic…”.  We congratulate Patrick von Aderkas as a most worthy recipient of the 2016 Faculty of Science Award for Teaching Excellence.

Previous winners

Previous winners
2014/2015 Eileen van der Flier-Keller (Earth and Ocean Sciences)
2013/2014 Dante Canil (Earth and Ocean Sciences)
2012/2013 Scott McIndoe (Chemistry)
2011/2012 George Spence (Earth and Ocean Sciences)
2010/2011 Laurence Coogan (Earth and Ocean Sciences) and Gary MacGillivray (Mathematics and Statistics)
2009/2010 Jill Simmons (Mathematics and Statistics) 
2008/2009 Penny Codding (Chemistry)
2007/2008 Alex van Netten (Physics and Astronomy) and Margaret Wyeth (Mathematics and Statistics)
2006/2007 Tom Fyles (Chemistry) and Barbara Currie (Biochemistry and Microbiology)
2005/2006 Stan Dosso (Earth and Ocean Sciences)
2004/2005 Edward Ishiguro (Biochemistry and Microbiology) and David Berg (Chemistry)
2003/2004 David J. Leeming (Mathematics and Statistics)
2002/2003 Richard Ring (Biology) and Michel Lefebvre (Physics and Astronomy)
2001/2002 Francis Choy (Biology)
2000/2001 Walter Balfour (Chemistry)
1999/2000 Ann C. Gower (Physics and Astronomy)
1998/1999 J. Thomas Buckley (Biochemistry and Microbiology)
1997/1998 Reginald H. Mitchell (Chemistry)
1996/1997 Gerald A. Poulton (Chemistry)
1995/1996 Bruce R. Johnson (Mathematics and Statistics)
1994/1995 Terry W. Pearson (Biochemistry and Microbiology)