John Nudds

John is Senior Lecturer in Palaeontology in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. He is also Course Director for our Geography and Geology BSc undergraduate degree.

I strongly believe that the one thing that has made students on this course happy in previous years is the huge amount of pastoral care that I normally give to them - I look after them and treat them as friends and not just as students.

Q: Most academics are known for their research. Tell us about yours.

I have three main research interests. The first, which was the subject of my PhD, concerns the identification of fossil corals from Carboniferous rocks, mainly from the UK. I use these corals to work out the relative ages of the rocks in which they occur. This is the science of biostratigraphy and is vital in the exploration of economic resources from rocks of this age.

My second research interest is very different. I study extremely rare dinosaur embryos preserved within their eggs. Only a handful of such fossils are known, mainly from China and Argentina. I am currently directing an international team of scientists to use groundbreaking techniques to investigate these embryos using the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, the only synchrotron in the world which is set up specifically for palaeontological investigation.

My final area of interest concerns the exceptional preservation of fossils. I teach a final year course on this subject and am co-author of the course text book, which is about to appear in its 2nd edition, and has been translated into several languages.

I have been in Manchester since 1988, but worked for 15 years as Keeper of Geology at the Manchester Museum. I designed the current Fossils Gallery and acquired for the museum a complete specimen of the Cretaceous dinosaur Tenontosaurus, which is sadly no longer on display. I have been in the School for 10 years as Senior Lecturer in Palaeontology.

I thoroughly enjoy travelling to various parts of the globe on geological fieldwork, including China, Japan, Brazil, Morocco, Australia, Canada and the United States.

Each year I attend the Tucson Fossil Convention in Arizona and meet palaeontologists from all over the world where I see new discoveries long before they appear in the scientific literature. In my final year course I update lectures every year, incorporating the latest discoveries in palaeontology into what I teach.

At the moment I am enjoying working with experts at the European Synchrotron Facility in France, one of the three most powerful synchrotrons in the world. Our team has made some amazing discoveries which will be revealed to the press soon!

Q: What else do you do in the School?

I am the Course Director for Geography and Geology BSc undergraduate degree. This is run jointly between the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Geography in the School of Environment and Development. This is a really important job because it is down to me to get to know the students, keep them happy and make sure they don't 'fall between two Schools' and not feel part of either.

Q: So do you manage to keep students happy?

I strongly believe that the one thing that has made students on this course happy in previous years is the huge amount of pastoral care that I normally give to them - I look after them and treat them as friends and not just as students. 

Q: But your 2012 student satisfaction scores took a real drop didn't they?

In previous years the NSS scores for Geog Geol have been the highest in the University for any combined course and have been commented on positively by the Dean. Last year's students were clearly unhappy, which is very disappointing, but was probably due to a number of things: building works in the School and changes in my normal teaching load due to staff sabbaticals so that I was unable to keep in touch with final year students and address their problems.

Q: What are you doing to improve satisfaction?

Well, the building works in the School are now largely completed. That means that we won't have the mess and noise and even more importantly, we now have much better labs and a really pleasant working environment and facilities.  We have also improved the way we organise final year dissertations. Each student now has a dedicated supervisor who is an expert in the field.

The smaller cohort of students will also help to improve staff:student ratio and increase the individual attention that each student receives from members of staff. Things will improve next year, I have no doubt.

Q: It looks like you've been very busy making improvements. Do you have any time to actually teach?

I thoroughly enjoy sharing my enthusiasm for palaeontology with young people who have a similar passion. I particularly enjoy demonstrating what we have talked about in lectures in the field, and introducing students to field geology in this country and overseas.

Q: How will you know that you have done a good job?

When a student thanks me, I feel satisfied that I have done my job! I hope they remember me for the friendship which I try to show towards them.

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