POSITION: Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream
ACADEMIC UNIT: Chemical & Physical Sciences
PLACE OF BIRTH: Harlow, U.K.
JOINED UTM FACULTY: 2018
“I’ve moved away from memorization to teaching the skills you use as a geologist.”
In coming to UTM, Paul Ashwell has traded the new for the old.
Ashwell, an assistant professor of earth sciences, earned his PhD in New Zealand, focusing on volcanology – the study of volcanoes, and rock that has been forged in fire. Today, his gaze has shifted, as he and his students explore the Canadian Shield with its ancient rock that has been left behind by glaciers.
“I’m used to the young, active geology of New Zealand,” Ashwell says. “All the rocks in New Zealand are very young, and we are able to study earthquakes and faultiness. Here in Ontario, the rocks in the Niagara escarpment are 450 million years old; those in Northern Ontario are two to three billion years old. They’re among the oldest rocks on Earth, but the same rules apply in studying them.”
At UTM, Ashwell’s focus is teaching, which he loves. “It comes a lot more naturally to me than research. I find ways to teach things easily. I love the fact that you get feedback from students when they understand something. There’s this ‘Aha’ moment that lets you know you’ve done something really well.”
In New Zealand, Ashwell was part of his university’s effort to modernize its first-year geology classes, focusing on skills and problem-based learning. That initiative has served him well on this campus.
“I’ve moved away from memorization to teaching the skills you use as a geologist,” he says. “It was an eye-opener when I created and taught courses using newer methods. Student engagement was so much better. The students were focused, attendance improved and they learned more.”
Today, Ashwell incorporates as much lab- and field-based work as possible into courses such as Earth, Climate and Change, and Field Mapping, helping students apply the skills they’ve learned about in earlier courses. “Teaching is challenging,” Ashwell says. “You can’t just rest on your laurels, but I get up every day looking forward to it.”
- “Petrological and geochemical characteristics of REE mineralization in the A-type French Creek Granite, New Zealand.” 2018. R. Morgernstern, R. Turnbull, P.A. Ashwell, T.W. Horton and C. Oze.. 2018. Mineralium Deposita. Published online November 17th 2018
- “Characteristics and consequences of lava dome collapse at Ruawahia, Taupo Volcanic Zone, New Zealand.” 2018. P.A. Ashwell, B.M. Kennedy, M. Edwards and J.W. Cole. Bulletin of Volcanology, 80 (43).
- “Permeability of compacting porous lavas.” 2015. P. A. Ashwell, J. E. Kendrick, Y. Lavallée, B. M. Kennedy, K.-U. Hess, F. W. von Aulock, F. B. Wadsworth, J. Vasseur and D. B. Dingwell. Journal of Geophysical Research, 120 (3), pp. 1605- 1622.