FAOBMB will welcome a new Chair of the Education Committee from 1 January 2024. Associate Professor Nirma Samarawickrema of Australia will take over from Professor Gracia Yu of the Philippines, who will have completed six years as FAOBMB Education Chair at the end of this year. FAOBMB recognises the excellent service that Grace has carried out during her term of office in this very important role for FAOBMB.
Associate Professor Nirma Samarawickrema is a teaching-intensive academic the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University, in Melbourne, Australia. She obtained her BSc and MSc from the Australian National University, Canberra, and her PhD from the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. She has extensive experience teaching Biochemistry to undergraduates in Sri Lanka and Australia. In her role at Monash University, Australia (since 2006), she teaches Biochemistry to students enrolled in the Bachelor of Medical Science and Doctor of Medicine, Bachelor of Biomedical Science, Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Nutritional Science.
As an educator, she has made major contributions to curriculum design and the development of innovative teaching practices as well as to education research, where she has focused on pedagogical investigations to improve student learning. As Co-Head of Learning and Teaching in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Monash University, she models effective learning and teaching practices by implementing active learning, building robust, contemporary assessments and reviewing practical skills. Concurrently, she mentors colleagues and positively influences their educational and professional learning through her leadership.
Nirma demonstrates impactful national, Australasia-wide and international leadership through her engagement with professional bodies. As Chair, Education Special Interest Group (SIG) of the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) (2019-2022) she led several high-impact initiatives including chairing the annual Education Symposia, with a focus on sharing practice and showcasing the work of Biochemistry educators nationally and within the FAOBMB region. She co-edited the Education Segment of The Australian Biochemist, magazine of the ASBMB (2017-2022) to enhance the profile of Biochemistry education and educators across the country. As the ASBMB Delegate to FAOBMB (2023) Nirma continued her focus on strengthening links to share practice and forge collaborations and professional development opportunities for Biochemists in the region. She is currently the Education Representative of Biomolecular Horizons 2024, incorporating the 26th IUBMB-17th FAOBMB Congress, leading the organisation of the Education Day to enable Biochemistry educators to showcase and share best practices in Biochemistry education internationally.
She is an active member of the Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia (HERDSA) and mentors colleagues to formulate their Fellowship applications, further illustrating her Australia-wide, high-impact leadership on colleagues’ teaching practice.
In recognition of her leadership, innovation and impactful contribution to educational excellence at Monash, she was made a Fellow of the Monash Education Academy (MEA) in 2018. Australasia-wide, her leadership and excellence in teaching and learning was recognised by being made a Fellow of HERDSA in 2019. In acknowledgement of her achievement in education and sustained leadership in innovation and creativity in Biochemistry education nationally and within the FAOBMB region, she was awarded the ASBMB SDR Education Award in 2020 and the FAOBMB Education Award in 2022.
She will take up the position of Chair of the Education Committee of FAOBMB from 1 January 2024.