Connected Conversations | Kent Algate
For some, this current moment in time has had some unexpected positives. For lecturer and researcher, Dr Kent Algate, that has been seeing his newborn son smile for the first time while also pushing himself to become a better teacher for his students now and in the future.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m Dr Kent Algate, a lecturer, course coordinator and researcher at the University. I work in the Adelaide Medical School, Anatomy and Pathology department. I moved to Adelaide from Canada when I was 19 and enrolled into the Health and Medical Sciences program. Years later, I completed my PhD and have since been given the greatest opportunity which is to be part of the amazing University of Adelaide teaching and researching team. I currently live in Lynton with my wife and newborn son, Theo. We have some amazing views of the city, but we are also just far enough into the hills that we have a resident koala that lives in our backyard gum tree.
What do you teach?
I teach into quite a few courses, but my main teaching focus is around the musculoskeletal system. So, starting from growing foetus to an elderly individual I teach how our skeleton and muscles develop, how they are maintained and how they slowly begin to break down.
What is your area of research?
My research is focused on the cells and systems that control our skeletal health. We are working hard to understand the processes behind why our bones and joints continually break down in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or periodontitis, or even around prosthetic implants (like hips or knees). If we can develop treatments to slow the damage to our bones over time, no doubt many of us could be living in a much less painful state.
How have the current changes at University impacted your daily routine?
Wow! No doubt everyone’s daily routine has been hugely affected by the current state of the world. Coordinating courses and temporarily teaching our students from home, while managing and maintaining research projects externally, has been quite the task. Knowing we are all in this together and experiencing similar feelings does relieve a bit of the pressure. The silver lining for me personally, has been seeing my 13-week-old son grow and develop… being home for the first smile and giggle was absolutely amazing.
Has the current situation enabled you to do more/less in your area of work/research?
I wake up in the morning make a coffee and immediately feel as though ‘work has started’. Lectures can be developed, assignments can be marked, research grants and manuscripts can be written without any of the time lost between travel to and from the office. But I do find myself putting in a lot of extra time and energy into finding new ways to keep my students engaged and feeling as though they are with me in the classroom. This is a huge challenge in an online environment, but it is certainly helping me think outside the box!
What opportunities do you see for the future?
I am incredibly passionate about seeing my students faces in the class – recognising when they don’t fully understand a concept to that moment when it clicks, and it all makes sense. However, this situation has definitely pushed me to consider and develop new strategies around my teaching methods, strategies that will hopefully enable us to effectively teach many more students on and off of our Adelaide campus in the future.
Name one thing during this time that has been pleasantly surprising for you.
It has renewed and rejuvenated some old relationships. Catching up with friends over a video chat is something I’ve never really done in the past, and it’s now becoming something we do more regularly.
What are you doing to stay motivated?
I’m lucky enough to be in living with my incredibly supportive and motivating wife – she keeps me on my toes and on task! I get my jobs done, then go out for a walk to get some fresh air or do some exercises in the back yard. We also have “video chat dinners” with our families every week, catching up and trying to stay sane. But more importantly, knowing that the students I teach will one day be working in the healthcare system, potentially working on ways to prevent or manage situations like the one we are currently facing, certainly motivates me to ensure there’s no shortfall on their education.
Name three things you won’t miss about this current moment in time.
Lack of toilet paper, not being able to go to a pub or restaurant and not being able to go and watch the footy!
And the three things you won’t forget…
Being home to see my son grow each day, security guards holding bottles of hand sanitiser, and of course I’ll never forget what it feels like to run out of toilet paper (ha, ha!)