Author Archives: Nicola Spaldin

About Nicola Spaldin

Nicola Spaldin is the professor of materials theory at ETH Zürich. She is a passionate science educator, director of her department’s study program, and holder of the ETH Golden Owl Award for excellence in teaching. She developed the class of materials known as multiferroics, which combine simultaneous ferromagnetism and ferroelectricity, and when not trying to make a room-temperature superconductor, can be found playing her clarinet, or skiing or climbing in the Alps.

Project-based learning and craft-brewed beer

One of the most enjoyable of my curriculum-revision tasks over the last weeks has been my participation in the “P2 team”, that is the Project team for Project-based learning (we could probably have done better with one very long german … Continue reading

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The Transition Period

“What’s going to happen with the second year students that I usually teach in the old curriculum when I’m teaching the new curriculum to the first years?” asked a colleague. YIKES! Somehow I had naively pictured our entire student body … Continue reading

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On Project Leadership

While history is likely to associate March 2017 with the United Kingdom declaring Article 50, it also marked a more constructive event: The launch of the ETH Materials Department “Materials Scientist 2030, Who is She?” project. Here, two years in, … Continue reading

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Student Feedback

After a few weeks of consolidating and tidying up the ideas generated during the retreat, the project team managed to converge a reasonably coherent curriculum structure, and decided that the next step was to run it past our current students … Continue reading

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Retreating on

Moving on from the revelation that we are all biased in spite of our best intentions, Day 2 of our curriculum revision retreat started with the task of defining the essential lab skills that every graduating materials scientist should have … Continue reading

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Unconscious Bias Consciousness

I’m writing this post from the wonderful Kartause Ittingen where 25 DMATL lecturers, as well as our teaching administration and a colleague from  the ETH Educational Development Center are “Retreating”. Exactly two years and many hundreds of person-hours work since … Continue reading

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Graveyard of old habits and opera house of emotions

I’m a big fan of the “Tomorrow’s Professor” blog from Stanford University. Their motto is “Online faculty development 100 times per year” and during term time, 10 minutes of reading a handy tip about how to be better at my … Continue reading

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Hard Work

The fun philosophical part of the curriculum revision is over and we are now slogging through the day-to-day drudgery of where / when / what the content and learning elements should go / happen / be. And this is hard … Continue reading

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An unusual source of inspiration

In the introductory project management course that we took at the start of our curriculum revision process, we learned about the importance of defining the boundaries of a project, and not succumbing to the ever-present temptation of project inflation. Up … Continue reading

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On reporting and pedagogy

While writing lots of proposals to fund my research is not something I miss about my pre-ETH existence, I was reminded this week of one aspect of my former proposal-supported research life that had some value: Reporting. This reflection was … Continue reading

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