MRU Science and Technology professors publish new books
Four faculty members in Science and Technology have contributed to the field of scholarly literature, publishing textbooks considered leading resources in their disciplines. Dean Jonathan Withey says each of the books is in wide circulation among post-secondary institutions.
Nathan Ackroyd, who teaches organic chemistry and related courses, is part of an author team on a new textbook, Organic Chemistry: Mechanistic Patterns. “This is the first introductory organic chemistry textbook that focuses on a mechanistic approach,” explains Withey. “This is an approach that has proven to achieve a deeper understanding of chemical reactivity.”
The textbook, in just its first edition, has been adopted at 14 universities across Canada, including Mount Royal. “It was an honour to be asked to participate in the textbook project, and I have really enjoyed it,” says Ackroyd. “It has been really gratifying to have so many schools adopt it for their classes. A first edition text is a lot of work, and over the time we were working on it there were a lot of changes to the team and the approach.”
Ackroyd’s text, a first edition, is already in use at 14 Canadian universities
Ackroyd is particularly proud of the fact that the book is unique among texts on the market. “This book is organized completely differently from any other organic chemistry book on the market. We did this to make the connections between similar chemical reactions more obvious to students. I believe that this book presents some things more accurately than any other book on the market.” A second edition is already being considered, he says.
Troy Burnett’s recent book won a 2017 American Book Fest Best Book Award in the current events category. Burnett teaches geography in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
His two-volume text, Natural Resource Conflicts: From Blood Diamonds to Rainforest Destruction, uses international case studies to explore conflicts that arise over natural resource extraction in developing and developed countries.
Burnett’s book won a 2017 American Book Fest award
“Frankly, I began the project motivated by two concerns: one, to put into words all the discussions and debates around the topic of natural resource conflicts that I've been having with students and colleagues for the past 10 years. And two, to put together the type of book that I thought I would like if I were a student. Oftentimes, academics forget to whom they are actually writing or should be writing.”
Withey says, “Troy has prepared a beautifully written resource, that covers many fascinating topics. It’s the type of resource that I imagine will provide students a source of knowledge that might not otherwise be as broadly and comprehensively accessible in the classroom.”
Burnett is currently working on another book about the geography of nationalism, which is expected to be published in 2019. He is also a regular contributor and editor for an online, peer-reviewed discussion database, World Geography. “It's an exciting time to be a scholar with all the avenues and media available for research and publication,” he says.
Randy Connolly teaches web development as well as technology and society studies in the Department of Mathematics and Computing. He is the author of three textbooks, the latest being Fundamentals of Web Development, Second Edition. The text is used by thousands of students at more than a hundred universities worldwide and guides students through the creation of enterprise-quality websites using current development frameworks.
“Through the preparation of this textbook, Randy is helping to define the field of web development for students, helping to attract students to the field, and even changing the way students approach this work,” Withey says.
Connolly’s latest text is in use at hundreds of universities worldwide
“Last semester I was on sabbatical in Europe and it was very nice to meet professors using my book,” Connolly says. “It also resulted in a variety of invitations to give keynote addresses and presentations, which was certainly gratifying.”
Connolly, who has written three books and has other writing projects underway, notes that the field of web development is constantly changing, which meant working on this new edition entailed significant rewriting and new chapters. “Writing, illustrating and editing a large textbook is a draining marathon that requires commitment and perseverance,” he says. “I certainly feel a great deal of professional pride in creating something that is fundamentally defining the content and pedagogy in this area.”
According to Connolly’s publisher, its textbook division is viable because of the math and anatomy texts it publishes, and its leading text in that category is one written by Connolly’s Mount Royal colleague Katja Hoehn: Human Anatomy and Physiology.
Hoehn, a medical doctor with a PhD in neuroscience, teaches a variety of biology courses and has co-authored several textbooks in the health sciences. Her best-selling text is being released in January as an eleventh edition, but the first with Hoehn as the lead author.
The 11th edition of Hoehn’s best-selling textbook will be published in January 2018
“Katja is now responsible for the entirety of the book—29 chapters,” notes Withey. “This text sets the standard for innovation in anatomy and physiology and, as a best-selling text, has helped launch the careers of more than three million healthcare professionals.”
Hoehn says authoring this particular text is an ongoing project, not only because of the scope of the text itself, but also because of nearly 300 supplemental online learning materials, which she also helps develop and revise. “Its multiple editions reflect the advances in the fields of anatomy and physiology as well as changes in students’ pedagogical needs.”
Hoehn adds, “Writing these textbooks amounts to a culmination of the somewhat roundabout pathway I took in my career. In writing these anatomy and physiology textbooks, I rely on my training in medical school, my research experience during my PhD studies, and my teaching experience,” she notes.
Withey says that publishing is a priority and important to the professional development of faculty members. “While it is a tremendous amount of work, it’s clear that writing a textbook is incredibly rewarding, and that writing books makes faculty better researchers and more knowledgeable about their discipline.”
“Certainly that was the case for me,” notes Connolly.
“As I was writing I found that there were things that I had taken for granted as true, or the way chemical reactions work,” says Ackroyd. “I had to spend a significant amount of time checking my assumptions and what I'd been taught before putting it in print.”
Hoehn agrees. “Writing the textbook has allowed me to improve the teaching effectiveness of art—the figures—that I use in the classroom. It has given me more knowledge about this vast subject area and more practice in explaining difficult topics. It’s a continuous learning process.”
Burnett says some advice he received as a graduate student proved to be true. “The best advice I was given was to continually find ways to blend research and scholarship with teaching—the logic being that this will both motivate and ground the scholar and keep students interested.”
Read more about the Faculty of Science and Technology and its four departments.
Dec. 1, 2017 — Melissa Rolfe