Teaching

Microbiological experiments and model species are essential and foundational tools in teaching principles of genetics, evolution, and molecular biology. Despite this, most introductory laboratory curricula do not have the time to highlight the incredible diversity and contributions of microbes to our understanding of biology. When introducing molecular biology concepts, I use my knowledge of microbiology to give additional perspectives on the concepts, experiments, and protocols students are often grappling with for the first time. Real-world examples and historical context help students create narratives and relationships with techniques, which in turn prompts deeper engagement with the material. Throughout lectures and labs, I highlight topics, questions, and observations that I find interesting, and encourage students to discover and express their own wonder within the course materials. My goal as an instructor is to communicate core concepts without oversimplifying them. Then, as student confidence in the material increases, to begin to explore the complexity and nuance of the topic. This framework engages critical thinking by prompting student questions and forming connections between examples and concepts.

EXPERIENCE


Teaching Assistantships: In Spring 2020, I led 2 sections (~30 students) of Evolution & Genetics (Bio202L), an introductory laboratory course. Students learn a broad spectrum of molecular biological, evolutionary, and genetic concepts in lectures and labs, as well as foundational bench techniques. In my sections, I facilitate broad engagement by incorporating a mix of small group discussions, presentation and chalk-talk style lectures, visual diagraming, and some written evaluations. For example, when students learn PCR, I first have them watch an animated video. Next, students draw out each step with a partner from memory, and finally, as a class, they create a diagram on the whiteboard to further reinforce the concept. After this activity, students have recalled the steps and purpose of PCR three times, and have created a diagram they are able to refer back to for the rest of the activity. During the transition to online learning in March 2020, I and other course TAs encouraged course administrators to think more creatively about online teaching tools, and successfully petitioned to reduce student assignment load. Student feedback on my laboratory teaching consistently highlights my approachability as a strength: students report feeling comfortable asking questions, proposing answers that might be incorrect, and asking for further explanation. During this teaching experience, my sections were observed by peers in the Certificate for College Teaching program and their feedback echoed students’: transitioning between activities seems to maintain student attention and they noted that students were prepared to answer questions when asked during lecture activities.

In Spring 2021, I assisted for Philosophy of Biology (Bio255/Phil314), which is a discussion-based class covering theories of natural selection, the evolution of complexity, and Zero Force Evolutionary Law. During this course, I wrote and graded quizzes, created essay rubrics and graded essays, organized the virtual lecture and discussion spaces on Zoom, and maintained the course site for 18 students. I delivered a virtual guest lecture on the origins of life where I presented students with two main hypotheses on the origin of life, incorporating some examples from my own field of microbial extremophiles. This experience was particularly valuable because it (1) was a teaching format I was less familiar with, (2) in a field where I had less expertise, and (3) offered the opportunity to design the lesson and lecture plan myself. While students were interested and engaged throughout the lecture and breakout activities, I struggled to address questions about connecting the material to philosophical principles and lost track of time during group discussions. Through this reflection and instructor feedback, I was able to identify specific areas where I can grow as an instructor, strategies to avoid making the same mistakes, and a plan to develop those skills further.

Guest Lecturing: I have participated in outreach with my thesis lab for three years. Twice a year we work with high-school students from the North Carolina School of Science and Math (NCSSM), leading 1- or 2-week workshops where students learn to engage with primary research literature, design an experiment, and execute their experimental plan using our lab equipment. These courses are volunteer-based and the curriculum varies depending on the individuals involved each year. I have conducted workshops on scientific reading skills, introductory microbiology, and created an R tutorial comparing different mathematical models for microbial growth. Students present their results to the rest of their peers during a poster session at the end of the mini-term.

Pedagogical Training: I completed the requirements for the Certificate in College Teaching Program in 2021, was a 2021-2022 Preparing Future Faculty Fellow, and an inaugural Teaching on Purpose Fellow in Spring 2022.

Current work: While I am currently most comfortable in courses with a wet-lab component, I am working to develop my skills as a lecturer and gain experience in seminar-style and lecture-based teaching. Thus far, my student evaluations have been entirely positive, which I take as an indication of a small sample size. To gain more experience and work with students in different communities, I plan to apply to teach lab sections at Durham Tech in 2022-2023. Additionally, to gain experience in course design and as a lead instructor, I am proposing an advanced undergraduate seminar through the Bass Instructional Fellowships.

Courses in development:


Courses I can teach:

  • Intro molecular biology + labs

  • Microbiology + labs

  • Genetics + labs

  • Computational genomics + labs

  • Statistical analysis for biologists (R coding environment)


Career Goals: My goal is primarily undergraduate institution introducing students to wet-lab biology through laboratory courses or mentoring undergraduate researchers. I am also interested in curriculum development for biology laboratory and computational biology programs at larger institutions.