#CelebratingTogether: Professor José Figueroa-O’Farrill 

#CelebratingTogether: Professor José Figueroa-O’Farrill 

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Edinburgh University Students’ Association’s Student-Led Teaching Awards are back to recognise outstanding members of learning and support staff. After a challenging year for everyone, we’re celebrating our worthy nominees by shouting about their successes across our digital platforms. 


José Figueroa-O'Farrill
Professor José Figueroa-O’Farrill

What is your full name? 

José Figueroa-O’Farrill 

What is your job title? 

Professor of Geometric Physics 

What school or service do you work in? 

School of Mathematics 


Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role. 

I arrived at the University in 1999 as a Lecturer. Before that I was a postdoc and then lecturer at QMUL (although it was QMW at that time), Bonn and Leuven. In Edinburgh I have taught a number of different courses at different levels in the School of Maths. I currently teach two higher level courses in differential geometry and general relativity. I have had a number of admin duties during my time and right now I’m one of the theme leaders. 


What does it mean to you to have been nominated for a Teaching Award this year? 

I’m of course simultaneously honoured and humbled to have received the nomination. My first reaction, though, was surprise, since I am simply doing my job. I enjoy interacting with students who are motivated and who after several years at university are still curious about Mathematics. And I am certainly happy to find out that this interaction is appreciated. 


What’s your favourite part of your role and working with students? 

As I said before, I interact enjoying with motivated students. I tend to learn at least as much from them as they learn from me. And I do enjoy teaching subjects close to my research interests, since it forces me to re-examine the foundations and I typically discover new insights. 


How have you adapted your approach to teaching and supporting students under the Hybrid Model this year? 

I have been teaching 100% online.  I give synchronous lectures, where instead of writing on a blackboard, I write on a tablet.  It is not ideal, but as close as possible to the real thing.  I also started using Piazza.  Marking (using Gradescope) goes faster than before. 


What’s been the biggest challenge in your role this year? 

The biggest challenge is sustaining student engagement with online teaching: lecture/workshop attendance is lower than normal and I don’t know how to improve it.  (I also find lecturing online slower and less energetic than lecturing in a classroom.) 


What would you say to the student(s) who nominated you, or students who are considering submitting a nomination for a staff member who has had an impact on them? 

First of all, thank you! It’s encouraging and it helps me realise that I’m having a hopefully positive impact on someone’s education. 

To find out more about the Teaching Awards and browse nomination categories, please visit the Students’ Association’s website. 

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