I believe students learn best when the can see how science is relevant to their lives. Learning science should beyond the textbook to incorporate new research expanding on decades old concepts in textbooks and medically relevant cases to engage pre-health students that make up the majority of undergraduate biology classes. Additionally, providing material outside of the textbook can highlight contributions from diverse perspectives to allow students to see the are represented in science and they can be scientist too. Exciting examples can bring science beyond memorizing topics to engaging with the material in a meaningful way.
I engage students by adding at least one example of new frontiers related to the topic they are learning or ways in which the topic presents itself in medicine. New frontiers can show students where they can make progress and new questions that need to be answered. Mitochondrial function taught in introductory biology classes seems far removed from the clinics pre-med students hope to get to until they are presented with a case study of a teenager with muscle pain and muscle breakdown after exercise or fasting. Evolution may seem like a centuries old topic but we’re still learning new things about how humans evolved to diverse environments, like the high altitudes of the Himalayas or how species may have to evolve to live in higher temperatures due to climate change.
I emphasize the contributions of underrepresented groups in biology because I believe it’s important for all students to see role models who look like them. Highlighting the work of Rosalind Franklin in discovering the structure of DNA or Emmett Chappelle who proposed sensing ATP to discover life show students that there are scientific role models who look like them and anybody can be a scientists.
I have incorporated these techniques into my role leading a lab section for both semesters of introductory biology at the Duke University. I lead weekly lab sections for a small group of students in a large lecture style class that both incorporated hands on experience with lab techniques and reviewed concepts from lecture with practice problems. I have also directly incorporated these strategies into my curriculum design for my class Genetics in the Age of 23andMe. With my teaching experience, I feel confident teaching introductory biology classes as well as classes in genetics, cell biology and the intersection of biology and ethics.
As my research focuses on genomics and utilizing large scale genomics technologies, I can bring this knowledge to teach a class on genomics and bioinformatics, showcasing novel technology, such as single cell RNA-seq or massively parallel reporter assays not typically taught at the undergraduate level. This course can teach students computer science applications to genetic research, such as differential expression analysis or alignment of sequence data, and begin to let them gain experience in areas not typically covered in computer science or statistics classes.