Randolph (Randy) CurrahRandolph (Randy) Currah, Biological Sciences
2004 Vargo Distinguished Teaching Chair
For Dr Randy Currah, whose classes range from botany, biology of the fungi, algae and lichens to mycology, teaching is an integral part of his university life. His passion for both teaching and research has earned him the University of Alberta's Vargo Distinguished Teaching Chair, a program committed to supporting individuals who demonstrate innovative and creative teaching methods which enhance learning by undergraduate and graduate students.
No stranger to teaching awards, Currah has received the Faculty of Science Award for Excellent Teaching (2001), a Killam Annual Professorship (2002), and the Rutherford Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2003).
"The fungi are just totally fascinating, I mean they're just absolutely fascinating organisms," says the University of Alberta professor of biological sciences as he shows off illustrations of fungi encased by fine cage-like structures in his office. "I showed you these pictures. Look at these intricate structures at the microscopic level. They just blow you away."
Currah, who claims fungi are the hidden gems of the natural world, studies their taxonomy and ecology to determine what they do in their natural environment. Fungi, says Currah, play important biological and ecological roles.
Currah's passion for fungi also comes out in the undergraduate courses he teaches, where he tries to emulate the teachers who influenced him — teachers such as noted mycologist Dr George Barron. It was during the course of his undergraduate studies at the University of Guelph that Currah had the opportunity to take a course in botany — a course he believed would be terribly dull — taught by Barron. "He was absolutely in love with fungi and what they do," says Currah of the life-altering event. "He just turned me right on to them. So I took every mycology course I could and never looked back."