Edinburgh-Zhejiang Lecturer

Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences, University of Edinburgh


Tel: +44 (0) 131 651 1711 mstefan@exseed.ed.ac.uk

I am a Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. My research is on using computational modelling and data analysis to understand processes underlying learning and memory in the brain. I spend around 12 weeks of every year in China, where I teach Biomedical Sciences and Biomedical Informatics in a joint degree programme with Zhejiang University.

I was selected as a Cruciblist in 2016, when I was quite new to this position and indeed, to Scotland. Having moved to Edinburgh from abroad, I did not really feel at home as a researcher in Scotland until I participated in Scottish Crucible. It provided me with an insight into the Scottish research landscape, and connected me with an incredible network of other young researchers.

One of my interests is in using data from learning technologies to understand how students learn and improve instructional materials. With one of my fellow Cruciblists, Linda Ferrington (then at Queen Margaret University, now at the University of New South Wales), we started a project analysing data from online quizzes to assess the quality of quiz items. Linda presented this work at the Creativity in Science Teaching meeting at the Society for Experimental Biology in London. Another learning technology collaboration coming out of Scottish Crucible was the idea of developing digital games to teach cell biology. Together with Linda Ferrington, Szu-Han Wang (University of Edinburgh) and Karen Meyer (Abertay University), we presented the idea at Pharmacology 2016 in London, and applied for various funding schemes to support the development of a game prototype. Though we were ultimately not successful in securing funding, this has helped me a lot thinking about how I teach cell biology, and about using gamification in higher education.

The network of Cruciblists is a valuable resource, and I find myself coming back to it whenever I am in need of an expert in a field other than my own. For instance, we invited my fellow Cruciblist Poppy Lamberton to China last year to talk to our students there about her work on neglected tropical diseases. On top of catalysing concrete collaborations, Scottish Crucible has also shaped the way I think about collaboration in general. The “science speed-dating” event during the second lab was both exhilarating and exhausting. But most importantly, it has equipped me with the courage to say ‘yes’ to interdisciplinary collaborations, and to explore new areas of scholarship. It is nice to see this reflected in my publication record over the past two years. Similarly, the media training at Scottish Crucible (and the fabulous Vivienne Parry) have made me more comfortable with exploring media opportunities, such as agreeing to be interviewed for a careers podcast.          

Two years after completing the Scottish Crucible Fellowship, I feel strongly that once you are a Cruciblist, you are a Cruciblist forever. This is indeed facilitated by the way the Crucible is organised, with networking events and other opportunities for fellows of different cohorts to meet and interact. I have gained a lot from those interactions, and am always happy when I meet another Cruciblist again at a conference or seminar. There is an ongoing sense of community and belonging. Much like the Hotel California, you can check out, but you never leave.