I am an Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream at the University of Toronto. Currently, I am teaching graduate courses in the professional Masters of Science in Biomedical Communications program and an undergraduate course at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

Please click on a link to the right to learn more about my teaching philosophy and to see the student project's I have supervised.

Teaching Philosophy

  • I believe that visual literacy is an important component of scientific and medical education. I teach because I want to foster future generations of scientists and educators who share my belief, and have the abilities to participate in an increasingly visually-oriented society.
  • I believe that to be an excellent teacher you must examine traditional teaching practices, as well as your own, and continuously seek to improve instructional effectiveness and efficiency. Many of my favourite instructional techniques require time-intensive one-on-one instruction, and though my classes are still relatively small by most standards, the growing volume of students I deal with makes time scarce and those teaching approaches less feasible.  I actively investigate and use solutions to make better use of time. For example, in my undergraduate and graduate courses, I employ guided peer-review activities that engage students in reflective practice, and increase access to frequent feedback. For my first year graduate course, I developed a prototype web-application that streamlined informal feedback processes, and improved my capacity to provide students with frequent high-quality criticism.
    I value feedback from the students and employ their feedback to refine my courses. I study my course evaluations, meet with students for one-on-one course debriefs and have started using informal, anonymous online surveys to gather more specific data about my courses than represented in the institutional surveys. This data helps me to be responsive to student needs and to iterate on my instructional methods and course designs.
  • I believe that excellent teachers thoughtfully scaffold information and, whenever possible, avoid shallow explanations in favour of robust ones. I learn best when I make an effort to understand why something works in a particular way. Generally, I don’t like being given a set of rules to memorize and apply. I feel that I need to understand the logic underlying the rule or guidelines. For example, when I was learning to make two-dimensional colour images representing three-dimensional spaces, I was taught a simple rule that the strongly illuminated surfaces should be rendered with a ‘warm’ palette of colours and the surfaces in shadow should be rendered with ‘cool’ colours. This is a common rule of thumb taught to nascent illustrators and painters. Unfortunately, this rule is overly reductive; and frankly led me to a lot of frustration and confusion. It violated my own visual experience of the world and trapped me in a conceptual dead-end. 
    While simplifications are often a useful means of introducing topics in a manner that does not overwhelm a novice, the ease with which an instructor can dole out such simplifications must be compared with their potential to perpetuate shallow comprehension or possibly outright inhibit deeper understanding in the learner.  Simplifications should ideally be designed to build upon other well understood concepts and constructed in a manner that supports expansion. The warm-lit-side-versus-cool-shadow concept is a failed simplification because it is often presented in an arbitrary and prescriptive manner. From my own experience, learners presented with this model have difficulty because it is often presented without first discussing the behaviour of light in the environment (e.g., absorption, reflection and refraction) and basics of human colour vision (e.g., trichromacy, opponent process theory). My own solution to this teaching problem was to create a progressive sequence of learning activities designed to help students develop a robust and flexible mental model of illuminated 3D spaces; this approach included the development of new lecture materials and a novel virtual experimental space that has engaged the students and encouraged a deeper understanding of the topic.
  • I believe that high quality instruction in my field capitalizes on the students’ capacity to directly experience success and failure in visual media design. In many fields, it is a difficult challenge to demonstrate a theory in action. For example, it is impossible for a student to directly observe atoms. Getting students to accept the basic tenets of atomic theory generally requires an instructor to build an argument through reference to many experiments not conducted by the student themselves. As an instructor, I have a great advantage because — for most of my students — I can design visual examples and experiments that let the student directly see the theory in practice.  In all of my courses, I invest a lot of energy in the design of my lecture visuals and aim to employ contrasting visual approaches whenever possible to help make theory become visible and experienced.  
  • I believe that formative or iterative evaluation is equally or more important than summative evaluation. 
    Providing students with the opportunity to practice interpreting and acting on critical feedback is vitally important to help them develop strong communication — visual or otherwise — skills. Students need to think, create, reflect and revisit as much as they can. I structure all of my courses so that students get an opportunity to create, receive feedback and iterate. This practice is particularly strong in my graduate course MSC2001Y where students formally submit at least two drafts of every assignment for assessment and feedback. In the fall term of 2015, I provided each student with an average of 6.6 instances of formative feedback that they could employ to improve their work; and they all participated in two formal, guided peer review activities that provided extra opportunities for formative feedback as well as a chance to practice critically evaluating visual media.
  • I believe that an important role of a university educator is to encourage students to develop into independent, self-directed learners. I spend much of my time teaching in a professional graduate program where students require tangible skills to gain employment after they graduate. Instructors in my domain have traditionally taught a combination of applied theory and technique; and students have relied on instructors to provide them with the technical skills that they would use throughout their careers. Today, the pace of technological development has devalued the transfer of technical skills; skills valuable now can swiftly lose their worth as new techniques and technologies emerge. I concluded that it is less important to transfer technical skill sets than it is to foster independent learning habits and methods, so that the students can teach themselves new tools and methods as they become required in their professional lives. To this end, I challenge my graduate students to learn new technologies on their own (often warning them that “One day I won’t be around to provide answers”), and support them by helping them to design a learning plan and providing advice when they reach a difficult impasse. This approach — student led design of their own technical skills syllabus— has been very successful in my graduate course MSC2006H and with the MRP students under my supervision.
  • I believe that a complete education in visual literacy and visual communication requires a balance of activities including analysis, evaluation and creation. Traditionally, the professional graduate program that I teach in emphasized image and visual media design and creation. Students emerging from the program were adept at generating new imagery but not necessarily good at engaging in critical discourse about the qualities of images that make them function both aesthetically and for communication. At both the graduate and undergraduate level, I have tried to improve the balance by creating more opportunities for students to participate in structured analysis and critique activities.  This has included the introduction of guided-peer-review activities in all of my courses and the introduction of analytical assignments like the usability report assignment in my graduate course MSC2006H. I believe that these assignments are providing my students with good opportunities to develop a broad range of visual literacy skills.
  • I believe that a great teacher has to be an empathetic human. I aim to model empathy by demonstrating concern for students’ well being and sensitivity to the myriad pressures that affect young students' academic performance. In all of my courses, I make a point of clearly announcing that their well being is very important to me and encourage them to keep me informed of any issues that they may be experiencing. This policy of open communication has generally worked very well and I am very proud that, in several instances, my efforts have played a role in guiding a student to a successful academic outcome.

Masters Research Project Supervision

In 2011, I obtained an appointment to the University of Toronto School of Graduate Studies. This permitted me to begin supervising students. What follows is a list of student Masters Research Projects that I have supervised or am supervising.


Derek Ng
VizMol: Data Visualization for Molecular Structure Analysis and Exploration.

Derek developed a web application - VisMol- designed to help molecular biologists explore the relationship between structural and non-structural data sets. The application remains under development. Derek is now a faculty member at the University of Toronto. You can read about him here.

Ashley Hui
SpineSim: An interactive 3D neuraxial blockade simulation.

Ashley developed a lo-fidelity simulation that permits learners to practice ultrasound-guided needle insertion in the lumbar region of the spine. The tool employs a physical model and an on-screen application that provides them with real-time visual feedback about the needle tip position, as well as supplementary information about ultrasound anatomy. The program lets users complete an epidural or spinal procedure as they would on a cadaver.

Kristen Browne
An animation series and website platform to present the technique of single cell electroporation as applied to morphological and functional studies of neurons in the developing anesthetized, awake tadpole brain.

Kristin developed a series of short films designed to educate lay audiences about research being performed in the Haas Lab at the University of British Columbia. The animations explain novel methodologies being used to investigate the mechanisms underlying normal and abnormal neuronal development. You can learn more about her work here.


Yi-Min Chun
Ex vivo liver perfusion: A 3D visualization of the novel ex vivo liver perfusion platform.

Yi-Min developed a film to educate lay audiences about contemporary issues with liver transplantation and the novel research being done to develop an ex vivo liver perfusion platform by the Selzner lab at the University of Toronto.

Karyn Ho
Hitting the target: re-envisioning the conventional representation of polymeric nanoparticles for targeted anti-cancer drug delivery to improve understanding of the underlying science and challenges.

Karyn did her doctoral work in biomedical engineering, investigating stratgies for the targeted delivery of anti-cancer drugs to tumours in the Shoichet lab at the University of Toronto. Her master's research project used animation as a platform for providing a summary explanation and generating interest in . You can read more about it here.

Joshua Lai
Polybrain: an online tool for learning the three-dimensional structure of the human brain.

Josh developed an online interactive 3D structural brain atlas. Josh's project involved the development of a data-driven brain model, and the design of an interactive Web application (built using the Unity engine) that would permit users to explore the macroscopic structural features of the brain in an intuitive manner.


Olivia Yonsoo Shim
Virtual Aortic Valve - A web-based catalyst for building a mental spatial representation of the aortic valve for transesophageal echocardiography (TEE).

Olivia developed an online module to help novice echocardiographers understand the structure and function of the aortic valve and how it is visualized using transesophageal echocardiography. This project builds on work I have done in the past, but aims to improve aspects of the interactive design by employing new real-time browser-enabled 3D technologies.

Michael Soong
Heart i C Prototype: A learning and teaching tool for cardiac pathologies

Michael worked with cardiologists at McMaster University to develop "a prototype tablet-based software application as a self-study tool to teach medical students clinical and imaging interpretation skills in cardiology".


In my first year of supervision the theme found across projects was gaming. Each of the three students developed projects that employed strategies to engage learners drawn from video games. It was a wonderful year and we had many excellent sessions together prototyping the games.

Andrea Gauthier
Vascular Invaders: Exploring the motivational impact of a video game in an undergraduate study aid.

Andrea developed two online tools to complement traditional methods of teaching vascular anatomy: one was a video game that employed beautiful graphics, a narrative and many common gaming elements (e.g., leaderboard, rewards) while the other contained the same content but did not possess the gaming elements. The project culminated in a pilot study where Andrea compared use of the non- and gamefied study aid by undergraduate students studying anatomy. We will be publishing the results of this study in 2013. You can read more about Andrea and her research here.

Cindy Lau
NeuroPath: Creating Neural Pathways in Play and In Mind

Cindy developed an online game to complement traditional methods of teaching neuroanatomical pathways. In the game, players complete pathways for neural signals to travel to and from the brain and body, while managing multiple patient cases and time constraints. You can see some of Cindy's work here.

Bonnie Scott
Cell Machines: A game-based study tool that teaches protein structure and function to university biology students

Bonnie developed a prototype 3D puzzle game to teach university biology students about principles of molecular representation and protein-protein interaction. The game involves matching 3D protein puzzle pieces using rules of protein-protein interaction, such as shape, and chemistry. You can learn more about Bonnie's project here.

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