I enjoy working with other people, and learning how they think and feel about different areas of life. I strongly believe that it is important to question how and why things work, and that the best way to learn something is by first understanding it, and then testing that understanding in practical applications. I think that individual creativity is essential for good teaching (and learning), and I often use creative examples to illustrate points. The goal of my teaching is for students to learn - not merely for me to just give lectures to "cover the material".
Experience is important but not sufficient, in my opinion, for learning. For example, a friend of mine told me that, during the Cultural Revolution in China (in the 1960's), the communist government decided that people would best learn by experience - so they took some peasants from the rice fields and put them in surgeons' uniform, and had them try and perform heart surgery. Obviously, this did not work very well.
"The basics" must be learned first, and then it is possible to move on to a more solid understanding of the larger issues. In order to understand biology, you must know about MOLECULES first, and then build upon this knowledge. This is important both in the lab as well as in the classroom. I will strive to encourage students to think BEFORE they go into the lab (by giving a clear description of the purpose), WHILST they are doing the experiment (by asking and explaining WHY they are using a particular procedure), and AFTER they have finished (how do the results fit the prediction?). It has been my own experience that this approach can make nearly any experiment work. There are many very powerful techniques that have recently been developed, and some of these are quite simple to use, if one has a good grasp of the basic principles.
I believe that there is a unity in knowledge - if something is true in chemistry, then it should also be true for biology and physics. Furthermore, I think that truth extends to other fields outside of science as well, and that many beliefs (such as a rational nature) are consistent with both theological and scientific lines of thought. I believe (and teach) evolution, but I also have no problems accepting the traditional creeds of the Christian church. In my opinion, these traditional creeds become radical (in a good sense of the word) when an attempt is made to take them seriously.
The Oak (Quercus) leaf shown in the picture is from the Kongens Eg tree, which grows in the middle of an ancient path north of København, Danmark. It is more than 800 years old. This tree has seen the development of the industrial revolution in the watermills nearby, as well as the newer "silicon revolution", with a huge, discrete IBM complex within a few km of its shade. Some of the DNA in the tree is several hundred years old, whilst some of the DNA was made perhaps a day or two ago - yet the SEQUENCE - the information content, has remained essentially unchanged for the past millenium.
As the amount of knowledge increases, it has become more difficult for a scientist to keep up with even one's own small niche of special interest. This means that it becomes ever more difficult for a "generalist" like myself to grapple with all the information. However, I have found two factors that have helped me along the way: new ideas are easy to add into a firm understanding of the history of underlying concepts , and (fortunately) really important discoveries are only a small part of the massive influx of data that is published every day . Of course, although I say I am a "generalist", I am basically talking about a somewhat broader (though still limited) niche, bridging two fields - chemistry and biology. My formal training is as a physical chemist and then I learned the tools of a molecular biologist. Basically I see life from a "DNA-centric" point of view. I am certainly aware that this reductionist's approach is not the ONLY point of view of biology, and the organismal view is an essential (and complimentary) point of view of modern biology. My experience in working for more than 5 years in active molecular biology labs in Europe (in Oxford, England, Oslo, Norway, and in Copenhagen, Denmark) has helped me to further understand (and teach) molecular biology from a variety of perspectives. Some of the differences in culture have brought home for me the different approaches people have to solving problems.
a DNA sequence point
there is a larger difference between two humans than there is between two
different SPECIES of birds. Furthermore, of the 70,000 or so genes that
make up a human, at least 40,000 are expressed only in the brain. Thus,
it is not surprising to me that people are so different, and have such
different ways of thinking and learning. When I teach, I strive to use
my creativity and enthusiasm to explain the basis of life from a simple,
Last change: 16 September, 1997