Teaching Science Like We Do Science

Many statements discuss the incorporation of philosophies such as embracing growth mindsets while teaching. While these ideas are theoretically and conceptually great, the actual implementation and details are paramount. I believe that a powerful framework for creating a growth mindset and positive learning environment in STEM is to “teach science like we do science”. Using this framework I seek to empower others to become intellectuals (broadly defined, in this case, as those who love to creatively play with ideas) as well as teachers.

My office is a not a stifling cubicle of daily torture, but rather a magnificent playground where I get to creatively apply ideas and tools which I have mastered to attempt to solve hard problems faced by science and society. This is in stark contrast to elementary school, where I found little motivation in working on book problems with no apparent long-term goal or application for the knowledge I was assigned to learn. To teach science as we do science, I give students an unsolved problem – such as computational predictions of protein-ligand affinity – and we work together to equip them with the tools necessary to solve the problem. I do not necessarily embrace a single teaching modality such as active learning or flipped classroom, because in my experience the students become so motivated that they begin knowledge acquisition and exploration on their own. In these cases, my role as a teacher is simplified: I provide some foundation and advice to guide them towards more bountiful research directions.

This approach also helps prevent students from forming the demoralizing impression that their teachers are better or smarter than they are. When working on unsolved problems, the teacher and student are alike in not knowing the solution. The major difference between them is simply experience. Given the magnitude of modern scientific challenges, individuals can rarely singlehandedly surmount a problem, therefore the students and I work together to build teams with complementary skill sets. As individuals interact with new team members, they discover the importance of teaching and communication in collaborations. They find that by empowering others with knowledge, not only does the team become stronger but the time to solution is often reduced.

By teaching science like we do science I provide students a healthy environment to play, experiment, succeed, and also fail. Research and teaching can go hand-in-hand since the stronger my research program the better training my team receives. Overall, I wish to share my joy of solving the unsolved in the hopes that others are motivated to incorporate this practice into their lives and become leaders to inspire the next generation.

Teaching Activities

  • Summer 2018
    Program Director—BioChemCoRe
  • Winter 2014
    TA—CHEM 6bh: General Chemistry II Honors
  • Spring 2013
    TA—CHEM 167: Medicinal Chemistry
  • Spring 2012
    TA—CHEM 6a: General Chemistry I
  • Spring 2012
    TA—CHEM 4421: Biological Chemistry Lab II
  • Fall 2011
    TA—CHEM 4411: Biological Chemistry Lab I