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The Royal Society of Biology has named Dr Carys Watts, Senior Lecturer in Enterprise and Director of Engagement at the School of Biomedical, Nutritional and Sport Sciences at Newcastle University, winner of the Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award 2024.

HEBTOY 2024 winner Dr Carys Watts receiving her award with OUP judge

The RSB's HE Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award, sponsored by Oxford University Press and Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS), recognises leading educators at UK universities, highlighting the invaluable role they play in teaching and inspiring the next generation of bioscientists.

Dr Watts was selected as the winner from an impressive shortlist of three candidates. Dr Watts teaches across the undergraduate biomedical sciences curricula, runs the commended Business Enterprise for the Bioscientist module, delivers teaching at Master’s level, and has a keen interest in staff enterprise development activities. She is a microbiologist who combines scientific experimentation with creativity and innovation in her teaching. Dr Watts specialises in bioscience outreach innovation and development of inclusive, sustainable practical laboratory activities, recently developing a new international virtual-exchange in bioengineering and health.

To reduce perceived distance between teacher and learner, she uses educational play and ikigai-based values, a concept which encourages people to discover what really matters to them and gives their life meaning. This approach encourages and motivates students to learn, creating a cohesive, trusting and supportive learning environment. Her alumni community happily offers their workplace wisdom and life experience to enrich the classroom. Dr Watts instils a “fail fast, reflect, and come back worldlier” approach to develop self-awareness and confidence in learners, and a willingness to try new challenges.

Dr Watts said, “I am thrilled to have won the HE Bioscience Teacher of the Year Award 2024. Getting shortlisted was fantastic and being able to present my teaching methodology to HUBS colleagues was a great experience. I hope to keep inspiring young bioscientists to not fear failure but to learn from it to develop, and that more colleagues will consider applying for the award and disseminating their achievements.”

The winner was announced at the HUBS Annual Meeting at the Wellcome Collection, London on 29 April and received the Ed Wood Memorial Prize of £1,000 to spend as they wish, £250 worth of Oxford University Press books, and one year’s free membership to the Society.

The Higher Education Bioscience Teacher of the Year award is sponsored by Oxford University Press and Heads of University Biosciences (HUBS), a Special Interest Group of the RSB.