Interview with Tomas Ekholm
Tell us a bit about yourself and your educational background.
I'm a mathematician, father of two and together with my wife I'm also a house builder. I did my PhD at KTH in mathematics in 2005 with the thesis "Schrödinger operators in waveguides".
After a postdoc in Lisbon I worked at Lund University and then as a software developer in the private sector before I had the chance to return to KTH in 2010. Since 2013 I have split my workload between KTH and the industry and during the last four years I run my own business as a software developer.
What courses do you usually teach?
For the last couple of years I've been teaching One and Multivariable Calculus for first years and Large Scale Software Development for fifth years. These courses are totally different and need to be taught in completely different ways.
Receiving the KTH Pedagogical Prize must be exciting. What did you receive the prize for?
It is super exciting and means a lot to me. I think the main reason is that I succeed in motivating and inspiring my students. It's important to create a positive atmosphere in the classroom, and I also try to help the students to focus. You can't cram studies into an already full schedule, so I encourage them to consider what the most important things in life are and remind them that we get good at things we spend time doing.
What do you do to improve your teaching skills?
Teaching is often a lonely task, so I am very grateful to be part of the Department of Mathematics where there is a large focus on improvement of teaching. There are so many great colleagues to learn from. Sitting in on other teachers classes is a great way of reflecting upon your own teaching, and I try to do that at least once every term. I've also learned a lot by attending dialogue seminars at KTH where we shared thoughts and experiences.
What do you believe are important prerequisites for teachers to perform at their best?
I think that curiosity and creativity are the things that drive me most, and in order to utilize this in my teaching there has to be a certain amount of freedom and trust.
Is there anything more you would like to add?
Yes, there is one thing. I would like to encourage everyone interested in improving their teaching to apply for a teaching sabbatical through STINT. In 2019 I had the privilege to be a STINT-fellow at Williams College, a liberal art college in the US. It was a fantastic experience to auscultate and teach in another educational environment, and to have time to reflect.
Text: Elina Charatsidou