Learning from someone who is learning themselves

It’s early the day after Easter Monday and I am sitting in the office looking out at the view as the haze clears and another fresh spring day dawns.  Yes all very poetic!  I have in fact spent much of the weekend looking at the view while spending the mornings working hard on a conference paper for later this week – I am a keynote speaker at a primatology conference this week.  I also have a big project meeting attached to the conference since I am now one year into my current NERC project and it’s about time that we started to have something to show for it!  I have been running this really cool computer code in MATLAB to generate some new data which was written by some colleagues in Liverpool.  It takes an individual footprint – in this case some from Namibia – and translates, transforms and superimposes it on others to create a mean footprint.  So for example if you have a trail of ten prints then instead of trying to interpret all ten individually you can focus on the mean.  It is a great way forward since intra-trail variability is a key problem in making inferences from ancient footprint trails.  Took me a while to master MATLAB – well master is a bit of an overstatement, at least get it to work! But once I got it working I could set the code running to process data in batches, time consuming but the results are great.  This whole process has set me thinking about the fact that doing research is really about life long learning – learning new stuff whether it be concepts, software or skills – and that is what is fantastic about being an academic and makes the profession one that I feel privileged to be part.  Sharing this with students and giving them the skills and enthusiasms for a life time of learning is also one which is cool.  A week Wednesday is the BU Education Enhancement Conference; I am down to talk about research informed education something which I feel very strongly about.  I have to write the talk yet, but for me the key is the fundamental idea of ‘learning from someone who is learning themselves’.  I really like this concept and when people ask what research has to do with a good student experience I think the answer is summed up by this phrase and in the simple idea of passing on ones own wonder at new knowledge and learning!