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.
Teaching Assistantships: In Spring 2020, I taught 2 sections (~30 students) of Evolution & Genetics (Bio202L), an introductory laboratory course. Students explore an overview of molecular biological, evolutionary, and genetic concepts in lectures and learn foundational bench techniques in labs. 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 lab. 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 Philosophy of Biology (Bio255), which is a discussion-based course covering theories of natural selection and the evolution of complexity. During this course, I wrote and graded quizzes and essays, organized the virtual lecture and discussion spaces, 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) was in a field where I had less expertise, and (3) offered the opportunity to design the lesson and lecture plan myself. 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: In Spring 2022, I collaborated with another graduate student to organize a Data Expedition for students in the Biology of Host-Pathogen Interactions (Bio432S). We presented students with host-centered genomics data set and used R to explore the dataset, uncover trends, and discuss the importance of metadata. Additionally, I participate in outreach with my thesis lab at the North Carolina School of Science and Math (NCSSM). There we lead a 2-week workshop to engage students with primary research literature. I have led workshops on scientific reading skills and introductory microbiology and created an R tutorial comparing different mathematical models for microbial growth. Students design a microbial growth experiment, execute their experiment in our lab at Duke and present their results to the rest of their peers during a poster session.
Pedagogical Training: I completed the requirements for the Certificate in College Teaching Program with course work in:
College Teaching & Course Design (GS755)
College Teaching & Visual Communication (GS760)
College Teaching, Diverse Learners, and Contentious Issues (GS767)
Intro to IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and anti-racism) in Biology (Bio750)
In 2021, I shadowed Professor Antonio Izzo at Elon University through the Preparing Future Faculty program. This program introduces graduate students at Duke University to the values, issues, and students at several local universities through paired mentorship and site visits. I was also part of the inaugural Teaching on Purpose Fellowship through the Kenan Institute for Ethics, which brings together faculty and graduate students across disciplines to reflect on and discuss what it means to be a good teacher of undergraduates and teaching within the university system.
Current work: I am developing my skills as a lecturer and gaining experience in seminar-style and lecture-based teaching. I received a Bass Instructional Fellowship to teach a self-designed seminar on Microbial Metabolisms in Extreme Environments in spring 2023. 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 with diverse backgrounds, I hope to adjunct at nearby technical colleges over Summer 2023.
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 to teach at primarily undergraduate institutions introducing students to wet-lab biology through laboratory courses or mentoring undergraduate researchers. I am also interested in curriculum development for biology laboratories and computational biology programs at larger institutions.