14 June 2017

Statistics professor named Teacher of the Year at SCIENCE 2017


Professor Susanne Ditlevsen at the Department of Mathematical Sciences is so good at making figures and mind-bending statistical calculations interesting and accessible for her students that she has now been awarded Teacher of the Year at SCIENCE 2017. Ditlevsen was one of 17 educators nominated for the award at the University of Copenhagen’s Faculty of Science. Students nominate candidates and select the Teacher of the Year winner, a process also intended to inspire researchers to optimize instruction

Photo: Jacob Helbig

Few have the ability to captivate an audience with numbers and complicated statistics. Professor Susanne Ditlevsen of the Department of Mathematical Sciences is able to do just that for students in her statistics course, "stochastic processes". Professor Ditlevsen’s commitment, charisma and enthusiasm for numbers has rubbed off onto her students to such a degree that she has been awarded as Teacher of the Year at SCIENCE 2017. Not least, because Susanne Ditlevsen deploys visual and practical elements in her teaching, peppered with quizzes and questions that allow students to test their knowledge and skills throughout their learning in auditorium lectures.

Hands on and building blocks

The SCIENCE Students’ Association, a body that represents student organizations at the Faculty of Science and designates the award winner, has deemed Susanne Ditlevsen’s involvement in the dissemination of academic content and in her students' learning processes in a league of its own.

"She radiates an enthusiasm that rubs off on students. She incorporates visual and practical "hands on" elements, by way of coloured blocks, used by students to construct towers during lectures. Susanne uses these towers to explain and illustrate statistical concepts. This instructional strategy inspires colleagues, and more broadly, contributes to the development of good, dedicated instruction that breeds classroom enthusiasm and curiosity", according to the SCIENCE Students’ Association’s background statement for the award.

Professor Susanne Ditlevsen, Department of Mathematical Sciences. Photo: Jacob Helbig

Don’t tell it – show it

Susanne Ditlevsen lives up to the journalism credo, "Don´t tell it - show it" with her unusual ability to translate an otherwise abstract world of numbers into tangible, concrete problems that students are able to relate to in their educational careers and everyday lives.

According to the newly minted recipient, the fourth annual Teacher of the Year at SCIENCE:

"I always try to relate material to what students will use later on, either in their studies or as graduates. I provide examples of how theory and the methods will be used, and how I have used different elements in my own research. Lecturing is not a one-way street, where one stands at the blackboard and delivers something regardless of what is happening in the lecture hall, as if the presentation was a film at the cinema. On the contrary, a lecturer is heavily influenced by student energy, whether we like it or not.”

Silence and enthusiasm

Fortunately, Ditlevsen has had the pleasure of being blessed by attentive, energetic and engaged students in her lectures. It is not just about reading from a book or pointing to formulas on the blackboard.

"The most challenging aspect of teaching, but also the most rewarding, is to build up the right energy in the auditorium. There are two sorts of silence – one where everyone is struggling to not fall asleep, where minds wander – or the other, where concentration is razor-sharp, and the lecturer feels as if every word being uttered is being devoured. The teacher must have the courage to provide thinking space, a bit of silence, where students have the time and opportunity to reflect upon the questions and problems being proposed. As a lecturer, my task is to help students interpret material and facilitate intuition with regards to results, evidence and methods. To give students something more than what they could otherwise read in books at home.”

The award carries a certificate and 75,000 kroner, of which 50,000 kroner is earmarked for the recipient's instructional team, and 25,000 kroner for his or her own pocket.

This is the fourth occasion that the prize has been awarded. The three previous recipients are from the Department of Chemistry and Niels Bohr Institute. Now it is the Department of Mathematical Sciences’ turn.

The awards ceremony took place on Tuesday, June 13th in the HCØ building at Universitetsparken, in Østerbro, Copenhagen.  

Read more about Susanne Ditlevsen’s academic CV here.   

For more information:

Associate Dean for Education, Grete Bertelsen, mobile 28 75 26 65 or proud@science.ku.dk  

Professor Susanne Ditlevsen, mobile 35 32 07 85 or susanne@math.ku.dk            

Journalist Svend Thaning, mobile 28 75 42 81 or svt@science.ku.dk