DR. robert Szilagyi
Associate Professor & Department Head, Chemistry
Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science
Born and raised in a small agricultural town in Hungary, Mako, famous for its onion production, I find it notable that I now live in a large agricultural centre: the Okanagan— the fruit basket of Canada. Early on I was attracted to STEM and focused on chemistry and chemical engineering studies during my college years. I received all my post-secondary degrees from the University of Veszprem (now the University of Pannonia) in the field of computational organometallic chemistry with a specific focus on method development for describing the mechanism of olefin metathesis reactions and polymerization. During my PhD, I had memorable experiences as a visiting student at the University of Calabria in Cosenza, Italy, Philipps-Universität Marburg in Germany, and Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland.
I am passionate about involving students in research and providing them with hands-on training. I like to give students the opportunity to apply their prior knowledge and past research experiences to their coursework or in the form of independent study to start developing their scientific story. By imagining that I am part of the course—doing my share of the homework, preparing for midterms, and designing and conducting experiments— I am able to closely follow my students’ progress and synchronize the delivery and difficulty level of coursework and assessments.
The most exciting aspect of teaching for me is experiencing how students learn and grow— whether in a lecture, laboratory exercise, or research setting. Every first class or first discussion with a student has a feeling of anticipation as we get to know each other. I greatly appreciate the process of exploring the students’ foundations to see what I can build on, what needs strengthening and optimal ways of delivering the course material and training. I learn as much about my own preparation and pedagogical plasticity as the needs of my students.
“The crown of my teaching activities is when I can clearly sense the confidence, expertise, and experience in my students’ voices.”
One memorable moment that marks a student’s progress is when they gain the confidence to start challenging me, form different opinions, or take on a side project in the lab. This is when the real fun starts as we start deviating from the well-beaten path. The crown of my teaching activities is when I can clearly sense the confidence, expertise, and experience in my students’ voices.
Another joy for me is to be able to interact with colleagues as I learn from them about the best practices, potential pitfalls, and workarounds to improve my teaching. A highlight of UBC Okanagan for me is the academic community formed by our students, researchers, faculty, and staff. I am thankful for being able to consult with several of my colleagues in the Chemistry Department and fine-tune my teaching. While all of us have our own challenges, we find time to help and advise each other. I would like to express my gratitude and heartfelt appreciation to everybody who has supported my training and continued growth at UBC Okanagan.
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