I believe that as a researcher I have a responsibility to educate others about the process, results, and importance of science. I benefit not only from training a future generation of scientists, but also by educating the general public. Increasing scientific literacy in all people leads to improved understanding of and trust in the scientific advances that will solve the global problems we face today. This also increases public support and funding for research and allows for scientific discovery to continue.
I strongly support education in biological sciences that is based on cultivating research experiences for each student. These experiences are important for all students, not just those who wish to pursue scientific research as a career. People who understand the process of research are able to judge the quality of evidence that they constantly bombarded with in a time of unlimited access to information. The scietific process involves intense critical thinking by nature and thus develops the ability to solve problems under diverse conditions, a trait which is prized in all professional sectors.
I have tried to incorporate these beliefs in the teaching various experiences described below.
USF HHMI STEM Academy
In August 2015 and August 2016 I took part in the University of South Florida/ Howard Hughes Medical Institute STEM Academy. This program is a week-long intensive for incoming freshman in the STEM disciplines where students develop skills, gain hands-on experience, and network with peers, graduate students, and faculty. The goal of the program is to improve academic and personal success by helping students to identify and develop their interests and to emphasize the importance of being passionate about the career your pursue.
As a Graduate Mentor, I worked closely with a group of 24 students to lead them through morning, afternoon, and evening sessions. Through the week, the students learned about the importance of research at a university and how they can get involved as undergraduates. We taught them the importance of cultivating their professional skills through diverse experiences, and how to critically reflect on these experiences to learn from them and shape their futures. Students completed laboratory activities, visited research facilities, and they had conversations with distinguished professionals from a variety of STEM fields. By working closely as a group, the students also developed a community of support among their peers that will help them throughout their college careers.
The efficacy of this program is already apparent through the success of the STEM Academy students. Several of my students from 2015 have already found undergraduate research opportunities in the Integrative Biology department and elsewhere. Three from my group returned to serve as Undergraduate Peer Mentors in the 2016 STEM Academy. Most importantly, by the end of STEM Academy week, all of my students were excited to follow their interests that they are passionate about to build a career, whether in a STEM discipline or not.
I believe that all students can benefit from the lessons we teach in this program and I intend to include pieces of STEM Academy in various forms in my career as an educator and research mentor.
General Physiology Lab - I've taught this course four times in my career at USF, and three time I was also the prep TA. I'll be teaching and prepping this course again for the Fall 2016 semester. This class was historically a series of "cookbook" laboratory experiments with the goal of reinforcing physiological concepts. However, working with the faculty on the course and other graduate students, we chagned the course to a more inquiry-based format. In Fall 2015, I implemented a new curriculum for the course where students learn experimental skills in an incremental fashion throughout the semester. The course culminated in student-designed labortory experiments to demonstrate their mastery of the experimental process. Following the success of this first iteration, we are repeating this format in Fall 2016.
Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy - A comprehensive course taught by Phil Motta covering the diversity and evolution of vertebrates and the comparative anatomy of the skeletal, muscular, digestive, respiratory, reproductive, sensory and nervous systems of fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. I was a prep TA and taught one section of the lab for this course in the Spring 2015 semester. Labs included extensive dissection of sharks, salamanders, and cats, with TA-prepared dissections of additional vertebrates.
Teaching Assistant - Biology II Diversity Lab, Fall, 2013 University of South Florida
Spring, 2013 University of California, Riverside Teaching Assistant, 4 Discussion Sections, Human Physiology (BIOL171), leading students in small-group “Active Learning” exercises covering material from lecture.
Winter, 2013 University of California, Riverside Teaching Assistant, 2 Discussion Sections, Comparative Biomechanics (BIOL176), leading review of lecture material as well as creating weekly homework assignments, grading lecture quizzes and exams
Fall, 2012 University of California, Riverside Teaching Assistant, 2 Lab Sections, Functional Anatomy of Vertebrates (BIOL161A), Weekly labs examining the skeletal and muscular anatomy of a variety of vertebrates and observing modifications in relation to function
Spring, 2011 Clemson University Teaching Assistant, Lab Prep and 2 Sections, Herpetology (BIOSC468/668) Designed and implemented a laboratory course in association with a new lecture course by Tim Higham. Responsibilities included writing labs, procuring and setting up materials, and teaching labs involving reptile and amphibian anatomy, diversity, and behavior
Fall, 2010 Clemson University Teaching Assistant, Lab Prep and 1 Lab Section, Vertebrate Biology (BIOSC307) Weekly labs examining evolutionary trends in vertebrates using preserved specimens, dissections, and simple biomechanical experiments. Grading weekly quizzes and lab practicals
Spring, 2010 University of Cincinnati Undergraduate Teaching Assistant. Vertebrate Zoology (15-BIOL-647) Assisted with weekly lab examining the diversity and anatomy of vertebrates from preserved specimens
Fall, 2009- Spring, 2010 University of Cincinnati Supplemental Instruction Leader. Leading groups ranging from 1-60+ students three times a week in review sessions of material from an introductory biology course (15-BIOL-101, 102, and 103)
"Locomotion" in Charlotte Stinson's Intro Biology- Animals course at California State University, Bakersfield, May 8, 2018
"Joints" in Laura Habegger's Human Anatomy and Physiology course at University of South Florida, October 7, 2015
“Jumping and Ballistics” in Tim Higham's Comparative Biomechanics course at University of California, Riverside. February 28, 2013
“Feeding Biomechanics” in Tim Higham's Comparative Biomechanics course at University of California, Riverside. February 19, 2013
“Reptile and Amphibian Reproduction” in Tim Higham's Herpetology course at Clemson University. February 8, 2011
“The Mechanics of Flight” in Kalan Ickes's Ornithology course at Clemson University. February 4, 2011
“The Evolution of Flight” in Kalan Ickes's Ornithology course at Clemson University. January 31, 2011