Teaching excellence recognised nationally

The innovative and inspiring approach of Dr Lauren Kark to student learning has not only been recognised in the national awards for teaching excellence, but has had a tangible and significant positive impact on the future careers of her students.

Dr. Lauren Kark, Award Recipient for Australian University Teaching

As far as Ojasvi Chavali is concerned, the opportunity to repair hospital equipment in Cambodia has been a life-changing educational opportunity. “The program made me certain that I wanted a career doing innovative work in the humanitarian engineering space,” he says. “It was hugely satisfying to help people living in such a disadvantaged part of the world and to potentially save lives in the process.”

Chavali is doing his Biomedical Engineering degree at UNSW and the opportunity to work in Cambodia was made possible by the sterling work of Dr Lauren Kark, a senior lecturer in the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering and one of the key academics involved in the burgeoning UNSW Chapter of Engineering World Health (EWH).

As a determined educator and a passionate humanitarian engineer, she worked closely with Engineering World Health to create the 'Summer Institute in Cambodia' program to enable her students to harness their creativity and biomedical engineering know-how and apply it to broken-down hospital equipment in Cambodia. The healthcare system in Cambodia is still suffering the aftermath of the destruction caused by the Khmer Rouge regime. The program is offered annually to engineering students from both UNSW and Sydney University and involves fixing machines and training local technicians.

Her hard work has paid off. She not only gets the satisfaction of hearing numerous stories like Chavali’s but she was, in September 2017, recognised nationally for her innovative and inspiring approach to education in the Australian Awards for University Teaching.

Dr Kark won the award for “promoting global citizenship by creating domestic and international programs that enable engineering students to genuinely contribute to improving healthcare provision in the developing world.” But despite the prestigious nature of the award, she says that by far the biggest reward has been seeing the students grow and enjoy themselves. In addition to developing this program, Dr Kark and her team of students from EWH have recently published a biomedical engineering textbook for students in Cambodia, deemed to be the first of its kind. 

The program made me certain that I wanted a career doing innovative work in the humanitarian engineering space.

Ojasvi Chavali, UNSW Biomedical Engineering Student

Professor Maurice Pagnucco, Deputy Dean (Education) and Head of Computer Science and Engineering, says he is thrilled that Dr Kark’s work has been recognised at the national level. “This program epitomises the type of initiative that the Faculty wants to become well-known for in the future. In fact, UNSW Engineering will soon be introducing the concept of ‘Signature Experiences” for our students. These are designed to be a defining or culminating experience that revolves around challenges of global significance. The aim is to help students set their direction and get them thinking about the bigger picture and their role as global citizens. In developing this program, Dr Kark has definitely created a Signature Experience for her students and one they will never forget.”

Professor Mark Hoffman, Dean of Engineering, says he was very impressed, but not at all surprised, that Dr Kark was selected for the award. “The importance of programs like this in creating positive impact in disadvantaged communities around the world cannot be overstated. It is a prime example of how humanitarian engineering can solve global challenges and we are very proud of her and her achievements.”


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