Staff Spotlight – Maki Sumitani

Photo source: Maki Sumitani

Maki Sumitani is the Learning Technology Support for UBC Biology, where she supports instructors and the Biology Program with tools for teaching and learning.

What do you enjoy most about your current role? 

There is a lot of problem solving in this role, and working with people to tackle those challenges and building relationships make that work so rewarding. Also, there’s always something to learn about the content taught in the classroom and about the technology we have, and I get to see what is capable when the teaching team’s expertise and tools come together.

What opportunities relating to teaching and learning have you been a part of?

Currently in Biology, I’m one of the Bio News editors and also a curator for BioSpace, which serves as a collection of open access teaching materials relevant to our Biology courses. I’ve also learned a lot about online course design for teaching and learning through the migration from Blackboard Connect to Canvas and in the current transition to remote teaching.

Growing up, both my parents worked in education and I never imagined I would do the same in the future. Regardless, once I started my undergraduate degree at UBC I found myself getting involved in museum education and curation at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, designing science lessons at University Hill Elementary, and being inspired by the SCIE 300 course to look for other science education opportunities. I was keen about bridging the gap between different disciplines, so it was exciting to work with the interdisciplinary graduate training program CREATE-AAP (based in Chemistry) and with experiential learning in Applied Science Co-op and Professional Development.

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

I rarely run out of things to keep myself busy indoors or outdoors, but a good chunk of my time is committed to training martial arts and writing. I occasionally combine the two (writing about martial arts), which is something I’ve come to enjoy from when I wrote about the science of dragonflies relevant to Japanese sword fighting, and a friend who repeatedly claimed “my brain turns off when I hear science” was enthusiastic about reading that bit of science.

What is a memorable experience from your own undergraduate experience?

I am a UBC Biology alumna, and years later I came back to work in UBC Biology. Many of my instructors from undergrad are still around, and on the first day on this job, I received a surprise visit from my thesis supervisor from when I did my study on chickadees, and in the same week a lab instructor who found out I was her past student took me on a tour of some new critters in her teaching space. It was heartwarming to receive such a warm welcome.

What is a fun fact about you that people may not know?

I lived in Denmark for some time and love the Danish language. One of their desserts is such a tongue twister: rødgrød med fløde.

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