Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences
University of Toronto Mississauga
Professor Piunno is an Associate Professor, Teaching Stream in the Department of Chemical and Physical Sciences (CPS) at the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). Through his innovative teaching methods, strong record of pedagogical research, and exemplary service roles, Professor Piunno has consistently demonstrated excellence in and dedication to the evolution of teaching and learning at this institution.
Professor Piunno’s teaching philosophy focuses on enthusiasm, effectual communication, and dedicated mentorship through active experiential learning opportunities. He draws from his multidisciplinary experience in bio-analytical chemistry and the biotechnology industry to enhance the undergraduate chemistry learning experience at UTM. Since his arrival, Professor Piunno has designed specialized analytical chemistry courses, advanced laboratory modules and research opportunities that provide students with experiences in modern techniques, project management skills, and teamwork. These efforts have laid the foundation for his ongoing pedagogical research activities, specifically the exploration of team-based interdisciplinary experiential learning.
Of greatest significance, Professor Piunno has developed teaching tools, both in the form of software and videos and demonstration kits, to facilitate student comprehension of difficult concepts. He has developed an advanced 4th year lecture course on analytical methods of biomolecule analysis, which launched in 2011 and provides an emphasis on diagnostic technology development and societal impact.
Collaborating with colleagues in the departments of Biology, Chemical and Physical Sciences, and the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre, Professor Piunno launched the Advanced Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory (AIRLab) course in 2012. AIRLab represents a unique alternative to the traditional 4th year independent research thesis course wherein multidisciplinary student teams are tasked to complete interdisciplinary research challenges. In the process, students are provided with formal training and opportunities to practice teamwork skills and project management techniques.
Professor Piunno has also been instrumental in developing a new interdisciplinary field-based research course, UTM290: Launching Your Research. This course was created to introduce field-based scientific research to undergraduates at an early stage of their academic careers. Research experiences such as these instill his students with a passion for science, all the while exposing them to research best practices that form the backbone to scientific careers. Similar to the AIRLab endeavor, students are provided with formal training and opportunities to practice teamwork skills development, modern project management, and personal reflection and assessment techniques.
Professor Piunno continues to reflect on course delivery, and how best to achieve his targeted learning outcomes. The benefits of his team-based, interdisciplinary, experiential learning opportunities can be demonstrated along several parameters including: enrolment demand, annual surveys of all participating course instructors, student surveys, student participation and awards received at undergraduate conferences, follow-up interviews with course alumni, employment success, and graduate program enrolment statistics. These data will form the basis of future publications regarding the impact and outcomes of this unique team-based interdisciplinary experiential learning framework.