Facilitating undergraduate education is a wonderful opportunity that comes with significant challenges, but is exceptionally fulfilling. Undergraduates, especially those in the introductory courses, are bright but are often novice. I have found that while their minds are still limber, they are often full of miss information and convoluted ideas about how the world works. Effectively teaching them new information and ways of thinking is highly rewarding. As a graduate student I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant, associate, and Pre-Doctoral lecturer and instructor of record for two large classes. This continued after I graduated and became a part-time instructional faculty member and Post-Doctoral fellow in my home department at the University of Washington.
Throughout my professional development I have explored various teaching techniques from traditional lecture based, to a more interactive and active learning structure. I have found that a combination of interactive learning and group discussion with instructor facilitation helps the students to succeed: increases their understanding of the material and complex problem solving.
I have been mentored by two amazing teaching professionals Drs. Scott Freeman, and Peter Ward. Through these relationships I have learned that the traditional view of the professor-student relationship, where the professor feeds facts and information to the students, is not the most effective method. I tailor my relationship with the students to be where I facilitate their learning, guiding them to a higher level understanding of information beyond that of pure knowledge and information regurgitation. I show students new information but not lecture at them. I do this by presenting material in a way that allows the students to work their own way to a set learning goal through discussion and peer facilitation. I pay the students (through earning points and participation grades) for correctly answering specific questions designed to assess the learning goals. This provides motivation, student assessment, and keeps the students on task.
For my leadership in education and effectiveness in instruction I have been recognized by the Biology department through a teaching award, and was nominated for the University of Washington Excellence in Teaching Award. Beyond my graduate career UW Biology offered me the HHMI funded mentored teaching post-doc through PI Dr. Scott Freeman. Beyond teaching, which has been my primary form of financial support, I perform research and mentor undergraduates. Working with students in the laboratory and classroom, teaching them scientific skills is only the first step of developing a strong scientist. Mentoring students through in-depth projects, starting with an observation, working towards a strong hypothesis and experiment, and ultimately leading them through the experiment, all while pushing them towards disseminating and teaching others is part of my instructor process.
As my career has progressed I have had several undergraduate students and technicians whom I have trained, mentored and helped to succeed. Three of whom, Olga Vitruk, Eric Gupta and Suven Nair, have been co-authors on peer reviewed papers, and another (Shannon Russell) was awarded a NASA Space Grant to perform research on my project. These select students and the countless others that I have had in my lectures are the true gage of my success as an educator. Prior students have gone on to medical, dental and other professional schools, as well as other research and professional positions. I look forward to mentoring many more students over the course of my career.