I was lucky that I grew up in India, a statement that may raise serious concerns about my sanity but is nevertheless true. I did not suffer summer camps, obligatory sports clubs, or orchestrated social activities. There was a delightful sense of freedom. I doubt if I would have survived a North American childhood without serious counseling. I was a true JD. At the age of 10, I found myself wandering parks rather than attending classes, since we had no truant officers cross-checking our whereabouts. My parents were quite distraught, but fortunately that delinquent phase passed, and I quickly morphed into a
bookish nerd just as I reached high school (more in Adv. Physiology Educ 35:323-9,2011)
I drifted into a medical school, though I had little or no social skills, had no desperate desire to help people or save the world, largely due to a series of muddles that derailed my attempts to get into a chemistry programme at Delhi University. I got my medical degree (M.B.B.S.) from the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi (1966), India and later a Ph.D. (Pharmacology) from the U. of Alberta (1972). Though I have worked in diverse places (U. California, San Francisco, Hôpital Necker des Enfants Malades and Hôpital Bichat, Paris, France, Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Hospital in Boston), McMaster University (Mac) has been my sanctuary for more than half my professional life. My scientific research focused on the effects of inflammatory mediators on ion transport. Before coming to Mac, I had never heard of problem-based learning (PBL) and was both amused and skeptical of what I thought was a ludicrous approach to teaching. That changed when I saw tutorial groups in action and realized the enormous promise of letting students take charge. My professional life underwent a phase transition as I became more involved in teaching. I adapted the essence of PBL to a variety of situations ranging from basic sciences to the liberal arts and to classes ranging in size from 20 to 200.
In all my courses, I have sought to: (a) promote student-centered learning; (b) stimulate students to take responsibility for their own learning; and (c) encourage students to seek, synthesize, integrate information from a variety of sources and share that information with others. Further, I try to maintain a balance between instructional and expressive outcomes. I feel quite strongly that students who are motivated, enthusiastic and involved would learn better. True GRIT will make pearls. To that end, I have tried as far as possible to give students an opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in a variety of ways (writing essays, book reviews, oral examinations, writing stories etc).
Though I am by profession, a basic bio-medical scientist, I have sought to bridge the two cultures (the sciences and the humanities) by actively designing courses that attempt to span this gulf or encouraging students to express their learning through more creative outlets. My courses have linked toxicology with creative writing, taste receptors with anthropology and my students have used archival material to deconstruct the antecedents of medical technology.
More details about my experimental studies as well as my educational activities are given in the following links:
Publications on Educational Issues
Experimental Research Publications
Problem-Based Learning / Writing
- President's Award for Excellence in Teaching (Educational Leadership), McMaster University, 1997
- Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations Teaching Award, 1997
- MSU (McMaster Students Union) Teaching Award, 2002
- 3M National Teaching Fellowship (2008)
- Claude Bernard Distinguished Lectureship (American Physiological Society) 2011
Membership of Editorial Boards
- Advances in Physiology Education
- Biochemical and Molecular Biology Education
Membership of Societies
- American Physiological Society
- American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET)
- American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ABSMB)
- International Union of Pharmacology (IUPHAR)