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Dean R Madden (1960 - 2017)

Dean R Madden

Dean Madden Director of the NCBE, a science education centre, died on the 29th January 2017 following an unexpected tragic accident at home. 

Dean will be remembered for his extensive contributions to biology education in the UK and many other European countries. He will be fondly remembered for his enthusiastic teaching, love of science and enquiring mind. He was a talented educator, illustrator and designer of educational resources.  

He gained a BSc in Biological Sciences from University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. He obtained a Postgraduate Certificate in Science Education at Chelsea College, University of London.  In 2001, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Göteborg University for his contribution to biotechnology education in Sweden.   

His first teaching position was at St. Aidan’s County High School in Carlisle where he was appointed as a biology teacher. During his five years at the school he taught science, biology, and computer studies to students aged 11-19 years.  While at St Aidan’s, he was seconded for four days a week for a year to the Department of Microbiology at Newcastle University, where he developed novel resources for biotechnology education, which were then published in the Warwick Process Science Project

In 1989, he was appointed as Head of Biology at Longsands Community College, St Neots, Cambridgeshire, where much of his teaching was with post-16 pupils. This was a very short appointment as he joined the National Centre for Biotechnology Education as Information officer in 1990. His duties included the provision of information and advice to visiting teachers and others, dealing with telephone and written enquiries and devising and maintaining the Centre’s database of biotechnology education resources. 

He always had an interest in and love of design and illustration and in 1993 Dean illustrated a book written by Bernard Dixon (science writer and former editor of new scientist magazine) for the 17th Internal Congress of Genetics. The book entitled Genetics and the Understanding of Life was produced as an authoritative source of information to help the lay public gain a better understanding of genetics.  The book was translated into several languages and his illustrations used in them all. 

In January 1995 he set up and ran the NCBE’s web server and web site. At that time there were only 23,000 web sites in the world compared to today where there are in excess of 1.1 billion.  In 1995, he believed the internet would be a very valuable way to disseminate information and educational resources and would grow bigger in the years to come – how right he was!

He wrote, illustrated and typeset NCBE publications for over 25 years. These included instructions for students and technical manuals for teachers and school technicians for both the UK and world-wide market.   He also wrote and designed the pages that appear on the NCBE web site. 

Also in 1995, he was asked to write and illustrate an introductory book about GM food by a technical publisher, the International Life Sciences Institute.  The book was published in English and translated into Spanish along with his illustrations.  He also illustrated a best-selling Danish biology textbook, Biologibogen.  All illustrations were drawn by him on computer in exceptional detail and accuracy to reflect the real object and equipment used in science laboratories.

He contributed chapters to several publications such as the (then) Institute of Biology’s Biological Nomenclature, and the ASE publication Topics in Safety.  He worked with the ASE (Association for Science Education) Health and Safety Group and was responsible for writing the chapter entitled Working with DNA and more recently a new chapter Working with Enzymes.

He helped set up an Anglo-Swedish online journal Bioscience Explained before it was popular to use the internet for the dissemination of science educational publications.   He was for several years on the editorial board of another international publication, Science in School.  

In 2002 and 2003, he helped to devise two practical kits which were sent free-of-charge to all state schools for the UK’s ‘Science Year’.   The second kit was produced to celebrate 50 years of the discovery of the structure of DNA.   

He was the co-ordinator of ‘Volvox’, a European Union-funded ‘Sixth Framework’ project which involved 11 institutions from 10 countries. The project was awarded £750,000 of funding over 5 years from 2003 until 2008.  The project was to identify good educational resources in different countries and then exchange the resources between the different partners.  The selected materials were disseminated via the partners own ‘Volvox’ web site.  Dean often likened it to a large box in the middle of Europe into which any partner could place any biological resource they liked. Then any other partner could take it out, translate and adapt it to the educational requirements of that country.

In 2009, to celebrate the Darwin Bicentennial, he devised three practical kits with experiments on evolution, which were sent free-of-charge to all UK state schools by the Wellcome Trust. 

He developed and edited bioinformatics resources for schools, with funding from the Wellcome Trust (www.dnadarwin.org). 

For several years he advised awarding bodies on aspects of biotechnology and microbiology and he developed and wrote practical tasks for A Level Biology examinations for OCR. 

He was working on developing educational resources on synthetic biology for schools and colleges, a Wellcome Trust funded project at the time of his death.  

 

He was always interested in breaking new ground and a leader in developing new and novel educational resources in biology that brought cutting edge technology to the classroom.  New topics like synthetic biology, cell-free biology and bioinformatics are beginning to appear in school curriculums across the world, and he believed it to be important that UK education was well supported by ensuring that appropriate, safe, well written and illustrated resources were available in the UK for pupils and teacher to use. 

Many of the educational resources that he devised and designed are still used worldwide and there can be very few science departments in UK schools that have not referred to or used the resources he produced.

He will also be remembered warmly by his past and present work colleagues, not just for his expertise in biology but also his many culinary adventures where we were often his guinea pigs.  His science inspired cocktails, all with a sound science story behind them, were legendary!  Dressed as a waiter at a learned society meeting Dean served the then Science Minster a DNA inspired cocktail in a test tube, which the Minister drank.  The strange looking cocktails then became very popular with all attending the meeting.  

Dean was a true visionary. His passion for science, education and experimentation will be missed by all his friends and colleagues.

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