Teaching

Below is a list of courses I have participated in as a teaching assistant. I have worked with courses ranging from six to 140 students in a variety of disciplines, including both major and non-major courses. The courses follow a 10-week quarter system with a discussion or lab component. 

 

For my full teaching portfolio, please contact me

From Fossils to Fermi’s Paradox: On the Origin and Evolution of Intelligent Life

BPRO 28800/BIOS 13142/BIOS 29142/ASTR 18700/PSYC 28810 - Winter 2021, remote

Profs. Sarah London, Leslie Rogers, Paul Sereno

Returning as lead TA, I worked with the professors to revamp the set-up of the course to make it more suitable for online learning. I set up Zoom links for live lectures so students who were available could interact with the speakers. I also recorded these lectures for students in different time zones. I also generated and edited transcripts to make sure ability to understand a speaker through a video camera would not be an issue for learning the material. Some speakers could not make a time, so they pre-recorded their lectures and I helped figure out when to do a follow-up Q&A session with students to give the students a chance to interact with the speaker. If students couldn't make the time, they could post questions on Piazza and we would ask the speaker during the Q&A. These sessions were also recorded so those who couldn't make it could still watch.

This year we had five TAs and four discussion sections covering the various aspects of the course material, so we broke up duties in a similar fashion as last time around. This iteration of the course had no exams, so we redesigned the 50-min discussion sections to have at least one, more often two, breakout room sessions so students could discuss the material with each other instead of TAs rehashing the material for them. 

We also moved from midterm and final exams to weekly blog posts and a final project, each designed to give students a chance to grapple with the course material in a less stressful manner that would better evaluate the students' understanding of the material. 

From Fossils to Fermi’s Paradox: On the Origin and Evolution of Intelligent Life

BPRO 28800/BIOS 13142/BIOS 29142/ASTR 18700/PSYC 28810 - Winter 2019

Profs. Sarah London, Leslie Rogers, Paul Sereno

This quarter was the first time the course had been taught, so I was able to see how to build a course from the ground up. The registration for the course was unexpectedly high (140 enrolled), so I suggested and implemented aspects of the course to accommodate a large number of students with four teaching assistants, aiming to be as accessible as possible without the TAs spending the entire ten weeks swamped by this course. I added discussion sections on Fridays, because this course was extremely interdisciplinary, covering topics from evolutionary biology to psychology to astronomy. The students enrolled in this course had an even broader range in background, coming from the aforementioned fields but also from fields like economics, mathematics, cinema studies. The discussion sections were designed to check in with the students and clear up any weak spots from that week's lectures. The leaders of the discussions changed each week, depending on expertise. Biology TAs would lead the discussions during the weeks focused on evolutionary biology and psychology, while the astronomy TAs would lead discussions on astronomy topics. This ensured that all the students received the benefit of asking experts in the field to clear up confusing points.

I also set up a Piazza forum for the students to ask questions if they had a question at a different point during the week or felt more comfortable asking a question via post instead of discussion. With the forum, students had the benefit of not only asking questions, but also viewing questions which had been asked and answered or provide an answer themselves. TAs would answer questions as well, and the forum kept most questions public and answered with relative speed instead of sitting in an individual's inbox.

The TAs participated in writing both the midterm and the final exams, working with the professors to create questions that tried to capture key points in the lectures as smaller multiple choice or short answer questions and synthesize the broader concepts in the form of essay questions. The TAs then proctored and graded the exams.

 

The Human Body

ORGB 30001 - Summer 2018

Lecturer/Lab Manager: Dr. Richard Madden

I was one of two teaching assistants for the five-week summer session of the intensive medical anatomy course taught to the nine M.D./Ph.D. students through the Pritzker School of Medicine. (This section of the course occurred over the summer so their schedules would line up with graduate school courses in the fall.) I participated in the first three modules they took: upper limb, lower limb, and head and neck.

 

As teaching assistants, we were highly involved in running the cadaver labs, typically held for a few hours once a day, sometimes twice. We guided the students through learning how to dissect and interpret what they were seeing in the bodies. We spent a lot of time teaching them how to become anatomy detectives - how can we figure out what that structure is? what are dead giveaways and red herrings? In the last fifteen minutes of dissection, we had the students gather around each cadaver, show off the structures they found to the group and quiz each other as preparation for their lab practical exams at the end of each module. This course also covers radiology for all of the modules, so we taught the students how to read angiograms and computed tomography (CT) scans and track bones, muscles, and blood vessels through the different sections of the body. For the Head and Neck module, there was also a histology component, so we reviewed histology of different tissues in the region.

At the end of each module there is a written and a practical exam for which we prepare them. We create review sessions and practice practical stations for them to get a feel for the exam material and format. As an exercise, we write the names of every single structure or feature that we went over during the course of the module on a notecard and had students pin them on all the cadavers and write their own questions to quiz themselves and each other. This was a strategy that was used when I took the class myself, and I found it very useful as it forces you to study each cadaver and become skilled at identifying the structure in all the cadavers instead of just the ones that are easy. We would them work with the summer course instructor, Dr. Richard Madden, to create the lab practical exams, examining the cadavers and pinning the structures such that each structure was clearly identifiable if the student knew the material. We then graded the exams.

 

Chordates: Evolution and Comparative Anatomy

BIOS 22250 - Winter 2018

Prof. Michael Coates

This course was an upper-level undergraduate and graduate-level course that discussed the anatomy and evolution of chordates. There were biweekly lectures and labs, both of which I attended. I gave two 90-minute lectures during the course, one on the evolution and characteristics of birds and mammals and one on the structural and functional properties of bone and cartilage. The lab component featured both skeletal material and dissection of sharks, chimaeras, and rabbits. For the labs focused on the skeletal material, I supplemented the course's teaching collection with skeletal and musculoskeletal mounts from the Sereno lab's teaching collection as I saw fit. For example, one lab focused on reptile and archosaur skulls, and I brought a crocodile skull with the jaw muscles preserved to demonstrate just how large they are in comparison to the skull.

For the dissection labs, I was in charge of the prosections, working on dissecting an example specimen for students to come over and look at while they were trying to find the features in their own specimens. I also walked around to check on the students and see how they were progressing with finding the structures and quizzing them on things that they had found. I created the two lab practical exams for the course, one on skeletal material and one on the dissection material. I made sure to include specimens in the exams they had not seen before - cow bones from Wyoming to see if they could still identify the maxilla on a specimen they had not been studying. For the dissection lab, I dissected out the brain and cranial nerves of a skate to see if they could apply their knowledge of a shark's nerves to that of a skate. There was also a phylogeny component to one of the labs, so I designed a phylogeny question, asking them to create a character matrix for a set of Neopets and build a possible phylogeny for these fictional creatures from a popular online game. I then graded the lab practical exams.

 

Mammalian Evolutionary Biology

BIOS 23262 - Fall 2016

Profs. Kenneth Angielczyk, Zhe-Xi Luo

This course surveyed the evolution of synapsids, discussing key fossils, characteristics, and ecomorphotypes of the group. Six students were enrolled in the course, with two sets of lecture and lab per week. I set up the specimens for the lab for the week, first skeletal material, then supplies for cat dissections in later labs. With the professors, I walked around during labs, helping students as needed or quizzing them on the key structures of the lab. Each lab has an introduction, and I gave the introduction for the locomotor adaptation lab, describing common osteological trends in mammals that dig, climb, fly, run, or fit in other specialist groups. A couple of the labs were held at the Field Museum of Natural History, so I helped guide them through the synapsid specimens in the collections and point out interesting characteristics in the exhibits. I worked with Professor Zhe-Xi Luo to design and set up the midterm and final lab practical exams, working to make sure it was clear which structure was marked and any key identifiers were easily visible. I then graded the exams.

 

Vertebrate Structure and Function

BIOS 22260 - Spring 2015

Prof. Paul Sereno

 

This course goes through the major musculoskeletal features of vertebrates and how the different shapes of the components allow for animals to do a variety of locomotor and feeding behaviors. My main task was to manage the lab sessions and proctor and grade the exams I also gave a lecture on gliding and flying. Working with the Spring 2014 TA, I created a set of weekly anatomy lab quizzes with a handful of stations to give the students a chance to practice taking lower-risk anatomy practicals before their midterm. Students in this course often have not studied anatomy before, and practicals can be an unusual exam style for students. 

 

Core Biology: Neuroscience

BIOS 10130 - Fall 2014

Prof. Megan McNulty

 

This undergraduate course for non-majors teaches students the basics of how to think like a scientist using examples from neuroscience. As a TA, I conducted a weekly discussion section, reviewing the week's assigned paper. There were also two writing assignments, each with two drafts. For each assignment, students would have to read a scientific paper and write a summary understandable to the general public. I would provide feedback and they would write a final draft. 

 

Dinosaur Science

BIOS 23100 - Spring 2014

Prof. Paul Sereno

This course teaches undergraduates the basics of geology, earth history, and anatomy before delving into the major groups of dinosaurs. Because they were required to identify rocks and minerals, learn their bones, and learn the basics of cladistics, I created three study sessions for the students: 1) guiding them through characteristics of each of the rocks and minerals, 2) learning the general vertebrate skeleton and how it varies among a few major dinosaur groups, and 3) the basics of reading and making a cladogram. I also proctored and graded exams and gave a lecture on marginocephalian dinosaurs.  

 

Vertebrate Structure and Function

BIOS 22260 - Spring 2013

Prof. Paul Sereno

 

This course goes through the major musculoskeletal features of vertebrates and how the different shapes of the components allow for animals to do a variety of locomotor and feeding behaviors. My main task was to manage the lab sessions and proctor and grade the exams I also gave a lecture on gliding and flying.