Year Awarded: 2015
College of College of Medicine
Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences
Engagement is the key to education. In the classroom, I engage my students by establishing a dialogue with them. Instead of simply reciting information, I ask questions. Why is the CDC in Atlanta? Students are surprised to learn that the original goal of the CDC was to eliminate malaria from the southern United States. Historical and contemporary references thus provide my students with real-world links to the lecture material. Other questions ask the students to apply their knowledge of the class material. These questions focus on critical thinking skills and allow me to reinforce the major themes of the course. Critical thinking is also emphasized in my upper-division classes which present data from the primary literature as a way of enhancing the textbook lessons. This question-and-answer format inevitably becomes a dialogue, with the students asking most of the questions. As such, the students take ownership of the class and become active participants in the learning process.
Engagement includes hands-on learning; the best way to learn science is to practice it. To provide more undergraduates with opportunities to work in a research environment, I co-developed Group Effort Applied Research (GEAR) with Dr. Sean Moore in 2012. This program combines lecture-based content with an original research experience in a class format. Peer Instruction and Laboratory Occupational Training (PILOT), co-developed with Dr. Bob Borgon in 2009, combines aspects of research and teaching assistantships in class format. Both GEAR and PILOT allow a single faculty member to substantially expand opportunities for undergraduate research and hands-on training. To further enhance the research experience, I have run the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE) since 2007. PURE provides students with a holistic experience that includes an independent research project, oral and written presentations of their research findings, readings from the primary literature, and discussions of research-related topics such as graduate school admissions.
Engagement extends beyond teaching and research. For this reason, I open my laboratory to student tours during the UCF Summer Research Academy. I also present an overview of undergraduate research opportunities at this event. During the academic year, I direct a “Career Opportunities in the Biomedical Sciences” seminar series. Each seminar is focused on a specific topic and is designed to provide UCF students with career advice relating to that topic. By generating additional interest in their field of study, I hope our students will be motivated to pursue an education that emphasizes conceptual learning over memorization. My lecture, lab, and extracurricular instructional activities are thus meant to provide our undergraduates with an exciting, holistic educational experience.