“Waited and waited… no students” – Leaders recall first experiences as academics ahead of Academic Staff Awards 


The power of inspirational educators: Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Sakkie Pretorius owes his successful career pivot to one “completely inspiring” teacher.

Do you remember the first lecture or tute you taught? Or your jubilation in receiving your very first research grant?

Professor Mariella Herberstein, Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), does.

“My first teaching experience at Macquarie was BIOL208 Animal Structure and Function – a unit I took over from a very experienced colleague who knew literally everything about animals. As the first lecture approached, I was ready to go. I got to the lecture theatre early, set up, waited… and waited… no students. It then dawned on me that I’d showed up an hour early.”

She may have had a rocky start with timetabling, but one thing was very clear to Mariella from the outset – that teaching in a research-intensive university meant her students were walking out of her classroom a whole lot more inspired than when they went in.

“Bringing exciting research into that unit content was critical for the student experience,” she says. “One of the main outcomes of embedding research into teaching is demonstrating how the knowledge that ends up in textbooks often comes about through chance discoveries. And everyone – including students – can make those discoveries.”

Inspirational teachers also changed the course of the career of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Sakkie Pretorius.

“I started my research journey looking to isolate microbes from cow dung on my father’s farm, with a goal of producing biofuel from waste material,” he recalls. “Two weeks into my PhD, I changed subjects after being completely inspired by the Head of Department who opened my eyes to a world of possibilities in microbiology. He taught with incredible knowledge, passion and drove our hunger to make an impact.”

For Sakkie, the powerful relationship between teaching and research cannot be understated – a sentiment he shared in his recent Research Weather Report.

“Teaching inspires research, and vice versa – they are a dynamic duo,” he asserts. “As a university, we have three functions: to teach, to research and – through those – to serve the wider community with world-changing impact. Our most passionate Macquarie academics are often driven to deliver all three.”

This passion that will be applauded on Tuesday 30 November as Macquarie celebrates our 2021 Academic Staff Awards.

Mariella and Sakkie will be joined at the online event by Vice-Chancellor Professor S Bruce Dowton and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching) Professor Dominique Parrish in presenting the Vice-Chancellor’s Learning and Teaching Awards and the Research Excellence Awards.

“Our educators and researchers have achieved so much this year, particularly in the difficult times we have experienced during COVID,” says Sakkie. “It’s wonderful to be able to take this opportunity to recognise their dedication, and I encourage staff to join us for the ceremony on 30 November.”


The Academic Staff Awards will be held online via Zoom from 3pm to 4.15pm on Tuesday 30 November. Register now.

Meet all the Highly Commended Finalists >>





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