“I’m not the only teacher”

January 21, 2021
Richard Dal Monte
Man teaching students in lab coats how to use equipment

Matt Dodd is a man of science.

He has a PhD in environmental chemistry and, at Royal Roads University, he teaches courses on subjects such as environmental chemistry, remediation, risk assessment and air quality management. He also conducts research; his current topics: metal bioavailability, microplastics and the environmental impacts of mining, including acid mine drainage.

Thus, he’s comfortable in the lab and in the field.

But it’s in the classroom where important connections are made and where learning is a two-way street.

Dodd, a professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability, has been at Royal Roads for 25 years and as much as he loves science, it’s the students who make the work worthwhile, he says.

“The cohort model and relatively small class size give me the opportunity to interact with the same group of students during their time at Royal Roads,” he says. “I get to know each student and interact with them personally.”

And that personal connection is crucial.

“I get to know individual students, including their strengths and weakness, likes and dislikes. These relationships last well past graduation. I’m still in touch with some of the students who graduated from our Bachelor of Science program over 20 years ago,” says Dodd, who is one of the faculty members and students featured in the university’s Boldly Different marketing campaign.

There are at least two reasons for the attention he gives his students:

First, Dodd has been in their shoes, having come to Canada from his native Ghana to attend University of British Columbia.

“It can be lonely,” he says. “Especially when you are an undergrad student, you come to a campus, you don’t know anybody.

“But if you have a sense that people who are teaching and supporting you… are in this together with you, it helps. You don’t feel isolated.”

Second, while he’s teaching students, he’s learning from them, and they from one another.

“For example, in our masters program, most of our students are working already in the field, so when they come into your class, they’re bringing all the experience they have.

“So then you learn from the students, and we all learn from each other. I like that aspect. I’m not the only teacher.”

While the face-to-face aspect of his teaching has been paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, his research continues.

One project is looking at microplastics in garden soils. Another is examining acid mine drainage and the impact of artisanal small-scale mining as well as the effects on human health of burning electronic waste — for example, phones and computers — to extract metals.

In addition, he’s studying metal bioavailability, or how much metal in soil, for instance, can be transferred to humans, to help with health risk assessments; for that project, his team is looking into metals found in the urban environment, from backyard gardens to parks and playgrounds.

Which brings him back to students and connections. Dodd was on a ferry last year when he encountered a former student who now works for BC’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. The student, he says, told him they remembered calculating sulfur dioxide emissions in his class and now they were doing it at work.

“It just made my day to hear something like that.”

This is one of a series of articles on the people featured in Royal Roads University’s Boldly Different campaign. If you want to take your career further, earn a new credential, experience personal growth – or all three – with a boldly different education, contact us to learn more or to speak with an advisor.