Transforming our education and research in genomics

Excellence in Education Awards: Excellent Educator Award winner

  • Date

    Thu 27 Jan 22

Portrait of Dr Antonio Marco

The genomics and bioinformatics curriculum and module design at Essex has been totally transformed in recent years.

This work would not have been possible without Dr Antonio Marco, who has received an Excellent Educator Award in our Excellence in Education Awards for his dedication to a mission to develop a long-term plan to introduce genomics to courses delivered by our School of Life Sciences.

Dr Marco joined Essex in 2013 with the key objective of boosting education and research in genomics and bioinformatics.

He has clearly met this goal and should be proud to have not only transformed our degrees in this field, but it has resulted in our students leaving Essex with a comprehensive set of skills in genomics and also securing PhD placements on competitive programmes.

Dr Marco’s mission began by updating an existing bioinformatics module so it aligned with current genomics topics and created a new genomics module, which introduced fundamental genomics to our postgraduate students.

After two years, his work to increase genomics content in modules was clear to see, and well received by students.

After the successful first phase of his mission, Dr Marco worked with new colleagues in the school who had expertise in genomics to focus on first and second year undergraduate modules, including statistics and data analysis – two core skills in genomics.

Importantly, students in the second year were learning a programming language and developing data analysis skills quickly. Along with colleagues, Dr Marco developed a new statistics module for first year students. By the academic year 2016-17, genomics and related skills were now firmly present in second and final year courses.

Since then, Dr Marco has continued to restructure, redesign and improve our genomics degrees, closely monitoring student feedback to assess new approaches, and always looking for new opportunities to further develop the genomics skills of students.

Working with Student Development, Dr Marco coordinated a comprehensive range of support sessions for students who felt they needed it, including Moodle quizzes, self-produced videos, tutorials and additional online support.

COVID-19 brought a fresh set of challenges to keep first year students interested in statistics and quantitative skills.

“To overcome this, I spent the summer producing a series of 30 short videos to introduce statistics to first year students, combining traditional slides with other graphical materials, re-organising the materials to adapt it to the audio-visual language closer to YouTube than to face-to-face teaching,” explained Dr Marco. “I was very pleased to see a positive reaction from students and a significant engagement in a class of over 250 students.”

He added: “We have transformed the Essex degrees to include genomics as core knowledge and our students have successfully been recruited into prestigious PhD programmes and we are building a good reputation in the field. I am looking forward to what the next years are to be in this vibrant and changing environment.”

More about our Excellence in Education Awards

Our Excellence in Education Awards are inspired by the University’s mission to achieve excellence in both education and research. We aim to provide students with a transformational education experience and intellectually challenging and stimulating courses that are based on creative and innovative approaches.

The Awards recognise and celebrate our institutional commitment to enabling our students to contribute positively to communities and societies around them.

Find out more