Prestigious accolade recognises a career spent inspiring students

TimProfessor Tim Birkhead from our Department of Animal and Plant Sciences has been awarded a National Teaching Fellowship by the Higher Education Academy (HEA). The accolade recognises a career spanning more than 40 years dedicated to teaching and encouraging budding biologists.

As academics, researchers and teachers we have a responsibility to ignite that passion to learn about our world.

Professor Tim Birkhead

After being encouraged by the positive feedback he received from his first undergraduate students, he has worked tirelessly throughout his career to enhance student learning.

Professor Birkhead introduced research-led, interactive teaching and feedback long before they became routine and even produced short videos to help give his students are more innovative learning experience – something that was considered pioneering at the time.

Speaking about the National Teaching Fellowship, Professor Birkhead said: “I’m delighted to receive this accolade – it is such an honour.

“The best part of my job is working with young scientists who clearly have a passion for zoology and are so enthusiastic to learn more about the animals and plants that share our planet.

“Science is such an important subject and as academics, researchers and teachers we have a responsibility to ignite that passion to learn about our world and how we can help to protect it for future generations.”

Professor Birkhead’s ground breaking studies have helped to improve our understanding of animal behaviour, evolution and ecology.

During his prolific research career Professor Birkhead has studied and visited the guillemot population on the island of Skomer, Wales every year since 1972. In the early stages of the study, Professor Birkhead came up with innovative ways to overcome the many technical challenges of conducting of censussing guillemots, a feat which had never been tried before. When he began his studies on Skomer, the guillemot population was just 2,000 individuals. By 2016, numbers were up to 25,000 individuals.

Professor Birkhead is a celebrated author having published a number of academic and popular books including his latest publication The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird’s Egg.

The book explains how the egg is a perfect survival capsule - an external womb - and one of natural selection's most wonderful creations. It was shortlisted for the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize 2016 and was one of Forbes' Best Books About Birds and Birding in 2016.

Professor Birkhead said: “I have always sought new sources of inspiration to guide and inform my teaching and found talking to the public about my research exactly what I need.

“The more diverse my outreach audience, the more diverse and stimulating the feedback into my teaching. For the past 10 years I have given a public lecture every three weeks on average and I would advise my younger colleagues to do the same and to tell the public about their research and teaching.”

Professor Birkhead is one of 55 new National Teaching Fellows (NTF) which were announced by the HEA.

Professor Wyn Morgan, our Vice-President for Education said: "I am delighted that Professor Birkhead has been recognised for his remarkable commitment to teaching over the past 40 years. He is one of our most valued mentors who provides everything a young academic could possibly ask for. He has inspired so many scientists to make a real different in the world."

Professor Birkhead has previously been named UK Bioscience Teacher of the Year by the UK Society of Biology in honour of his inspirational teaching and longstanding passion for research in the field.