My main teaching goals are to build opportunities for deliberate practice rooted in authentic experiences relevant to students’ careers and lives, to enable students to take control over their own learning processes and become self-actualized individuals, and to lead an environment which sustains diversity and inclusion in science education.
To this end, I use evidence-based strategies to facilitate student learning with a learner centered, active-learning approach. Students are encouraged to work collaboratively to solve difficult challenges. Regular reflection and self-inquiry activities provide students space to self evaluate, identify and cultivate their mindset. Finally, I aim to create an inclusive environment for the needs of all students and encourage open communication.
I have had the pleasure to teach Evolutionary Biology for four semesters as an instructor of record in the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology (EBIO) department at the University of Colorado Boulder, and three semesters as a graduate teaching assistant in the department of Genetics at the University of Georgia. As a teaching assistant I facilitated recitation discussions, answering questions about class content on the fly, coming up with relevant examples that students could grasp. As a result of these teaching efforts in this course, along with those in general biology (described below), I was awarded an Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award by the Senior VP & Provost through supervisor and student evaluations. As an instructor, I have incorporated active learning student-centered strategies into my classes, supervised graduate teaching assistants and undergraduate learning assistants, and was able to develop the skills necessary to incorporate evidence-based pedagogy into courses with support from co-teaching and within the department.
For four semesters I have been the instructor of record for general biology, an introduction to molecular biology, in the School of Continuing Education at CU Boulder. This is a flipped hybrid course for which I recorded video lectures that students watch before coming to class, and designed in-class activities for students to practice engaging with and learning the material. A three-week course observation provides a good snap-shot, with the majority of time spent interacting with students (my COPUS results). In this class I use a combination of clickers, in-class activities, and case studies, as well as have used similar practices in teaching a semester of organismal biology. As a graduate student, I was the instructor of record in the department of Biology at the University of Georgia for an introductory molecular biology laboratory course. These labs were inquiry-based and writing intensive, where I conducted short lectures, managed groups of students as they embarked on their problem, and gave them extensive feedback on their scientific writing. I was awarded an outstanding teaching award for my efforts in part in this course (described above).
Teaching Scientific Writing
As an instructor of record in a laboratory introductory molecular biology course, I participated in ‘Writing Across the Curriculum’ as part of the Writing Intensive Program at the University of Georgia. I attended a semester-long seminar in research-best practices for teaching and grading student writing. We scaffolded the pieces of a laboratory report through the semester, giving students feedback along the way. Finally, at the end of the semester a complete lab report was due, and for which they could improve with another round of revision. I am also fortunate to regularly interact with many faculty at CU Boulder who have many years of experience they are willing to share surrounding teaching scientific writing.
I have taken on the role of a Science Teaching and Learning Fellow (also known as a department education specialist) in the EBIO department at CU Boulder. To enhance and further teaching excellence in the department, I provide support for pedagogy and course transformation efforts by drawing on evidence-based teaching practices and technological innovations. I consult with individual faculty as well as work with teaching teams, including graduate teaching assistants and undergraduate learning assistants. I have been able to leverage my expertise as a faculty member to cover lectures, provide assistance writing learning outcomes, aligning exams to learning goals, Blooming questions for increasing challenge, writing and developing case studies, and many other activities. In addition, to support undergraduate learning outcomes and student retention in our major, I meet with struggling students to coach them academically.
I have worked on/with faculty in the following courses:
Mating Systems and Sexual Selection
There is remarkable diversity in mating strategies. From selfing, gynodioecy, and dioecy in plants, to polyandry, polygyny, and polgynandry in animals (and more), evolution has resulted in many different ways to produce the next generation. In sexual organisms, differences between the sexes (sexual dimorphism) can result from sexual selection and antagonism. Darwin recognized the struggle between the sexes, and its importance in producing showy traits. A great deal of theoretical and empirical work has gone into understanding sexual selection and mating strategies, but many large questions remain such as the importance of antagonism on trait evolution, quantitative measures of honest signals, and a paucity of information exists on the significance of female choice or preference. Finally, the evolution of behaviors and tactics such as mate guarding, passing toxic ejaculates, and “sneaker” males contribute to the overall amazing diversity of life.
I have studied these concepts in great detail for ~ 8 years, through research projects, journal clubs and seminars, and led a book group to read popular press on the subject.
Animal Communication and Cognition
Description coming soon.
Selfish Genetic Elements
Genome evolution is greatly impacted by the presence of selfish genetic elements (SGEs). But, how can DNA be ‘selfish’? We will discuss the various mechanisms in which different SGEs promote their own transmission relative to the rest of the genome, as well as decipher when they result in harmful effects to their hosts. Their origins, maintenance, and measured (and potential) effects on evolution will be covered. SGEs have significant impacts on the evolution of gene regulation, formation of new genes, and even influence biological dynamics and the formation of new species. Genetic conflict can arise between different components of the genome (nuclear, mitochondrial, chloroplast, etc.), due to differences in transmission patterns and conflicting genetic ‘interests’. Finally, we will explore how SGEs contribute to genetic conflict and the consequences, and how overall genomic conflict may spark evolutionary change and innovation.
I spent the majority of my dissertation and some of my undergraduate research experience studying these topics, and have completed coursework and numerous presentations on the subject.
Personalized Genomic Medicine
Whether you have heard about genomic medicine in the news, have personally discussed the results of a genetic screening with a genetic counselor, or placed an order with a direct to consumer genetic testing company, you may have been unsure about what words like ‘disease risk’ and ‘predispositions’ really mean. Genomic medicine uses genomic information about an individual in order to make decisions about healthcare. While we have learned a lot since the Human Genome Project, especially for more straightforward genetic disorders, there is still a great deal unknown about many simple and more complex diseases. We will discuss concepts such as missing heritability, genotype by environment interactions, and epistasis. We will practice skills in evaluating the results and uncertainty of large-scale genomic research and how to understand and interpret the statistical methods and results (such as odds ratios in genome-wide association studies).
Instructors and certified genetic counselors from the hereditary cancer clinic at CU Anschutz, have offered to provide some practical materials and perform visiting lectures as outreach.
CURE in Genetics
Including undergraduates in research as early as possible has been shown to have many benefits (Corwin et al. 2014, Brownell et al. 2015). In large Genetics courses, there may be recitations along with high enrollment lectures, but students may not have the opportunity to gain hand-on laboratory experiences that would help them in their future (undergraduate research experiences, skills for future careers, etc). The Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) model, offers a great bridge to start developing these pathways for students with diverse needs and broad interests which might not be found in more ‘molecular’ courses.
Teaching Professional Development
I have participated in a number and variety of professional development opportunities in order to improve my teaching skills and expand my toolkit of practices. See the page on Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) for an outline of these activities.
I am also interested in investigating the effectiveness of models of Graduate Teaching Assistant Professional Development Programs in Biology, and have given a “Flip Your Classroom Workshop” for graduate students from several departments at CU Boulder.