Overview and Philosophy of Teaching [back to top]
I am very committed to undergraduate education at UCLA. I view teaching as my primary job within the University, even though I have an active research program that is demanding and requires a lot of time. My thoughts on this matter are reflected in the accompanying Editorial, "To Teach or Not," that I wrote for The Plant Cell while I was Editor-In-Chief. My philosophy of education and what I try to achieve in the classroom is best described in the UCLA Alumni Magazine article, entitled "Goldberg Variations" by Dan Gordon.
What I Enjoy Teaching [back to top]
I enjoy teaching introductory courses to both non-majors and majors. Since arriving at UCLA in 1976, I have primarily concentrated on Lower Division courses because I like to teach students that are at the beginning of their college experience. I have, however, taught Upper Division and Graduate courses as well, most recently teaching MCDB 191 -- What Are GMOs: History, Science, and Applications of Genetic Engineering. Many of my courses are taken for General Education credit by undergraduate students with diverse backgrounds and interests. I love teaching science to non-majors and discussing the impact that science, particularly recent developments in genetics, genomics, and biotechnology, has on their lives. In all of my courses I intermingle discussions about scientific principles with those on the history and impact that science has on society. Simply put -- I try to make science come alive with the people, events, ideas, and experiments that made it all happen.
Courses Recently Taught [back to top]
I particularly like creating new courses because they allow me to explore new avenues of thought, expand my intellectual horizons, and interact with different types of students. I have initiated and taught several new courses as part of the Freshman Seminar Series (Biology 88C), the Honors Collegium Curriculum (HC 25,HC70, HC70A), the Life Sciences Core Curriculum LS3H), and the General Education and Core Curricula (Biology/MCDB 70 and 191). And I enjoy teaching classes at all levels -- from freshman seminars to lower division core courses to upper division requirements for the major.
I am particularly proud of my contributions to undergraduate education at UCLA -- especially my contributions to many different types of courses to science and non-science students as well as in the upper and lower divisions. I enjoy exploring and experimenting with new teaching approaches, striving to bridge the gap between research and the classroom.
Courses that I have taught include:
· Biology 88C, Frontiers of Molecular Biology (Freshman Seminar Series)
· Honors Collegium 25, The Human Genome -- Prospects for the Super Race (Honors Collegium Curriculum/General Education Curriculum)
· Biology 70 -- Genetic Engineering and Society (General Education Curriculum)
· Biology 7 (equivalent to Life Sciences 3) -- Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology (Life Sciences Lower Division Core Curriculum/General Education Curriculum)
· Life Sciences 3 Honors -- Introduction to Molecular Biology/Honors (Life Sciences Lower Division Core Curriculum/General Education Curriculum)
· Biology 100A, Principles of Molecular Biology (Biology Upper Division Core Curriculum)
· Biology 100A Honors Discussion
· HC 70A -- Genetic Engineering in Medicine, Agriculture, and Law (General Education Curriculum and Special Gold Shield Award Course)
· MCDB 144, Molecular Biology (MCDB Upper Division Core Curriculum)
· MCDB 191, What Are GMOs: History, Science, and Applications of Genetic Engineering (MCDB Upper Division)
Teaching Undergraduates in the Laboratory [back to top]
I have also had a number of undergraduate Honors Research students in my laboratory -- teaching them science hands-on in the laboratory. I also initiated a unique program to utilize senior undergraduate Teaching Assistants in my lower division classes. In fact, I was the first to utilize undergraduates as Teaching Assistants at UCLA to teach them how to teach; and to show them how much fun it is to be involved with undergraduate teaching. Many of my undergraduates have been honored at MCDB graduation with senior research awards and/or outstanding student awards [James Boone (1997), Pei Yun Lee (1998), Philip Choi (2001)}. In addition, several have had their names on papers published from my laboratory (Katherine McIntire, James Boone, Mai Thy Truong, Pei Yun Lee).
I have had the privilege of being involved at every level of undergraduate teaching at UCLA in my Department and the College -- a Freshman Seminar, General Education Courses for Non-Science Majors, Lower Division Life Sciences Core Courses, an Upper Division Life Sciences Core Course, an Upper Division Honors Discussion, and 190/199/SRP Honors Research.
Teaching Style and Unique Methods and Approaches [back to top]
My classes are rigorous and highly unorthodox. I believe that students can be challenged to reach their maximum academic potentials by requiring student's maximum effort, emphasizing student/student and student/professor interactions, and using dynamic teaching approaches to pique student interest. My classes are organized around a weekly schedule: a 2.5 hour lecture which I teach, a 2.5 hour movie and discussion on the relevance of science to society which I also teach, and a 2 hour discussion section which is an undergraduate seminar on current topics in molecular biology taught by the TAs. In each of my courses I :
· Use Undergraduate Teaching Assistants and/or recent graduates who have had my class previously and who have shown unusual promise as teachers. I work with my TAs very closely using video and discussions to teach them how to teach. And they learn to teach in the Socratic style which fosters an interactive classroom.
· Learn student's names so they feel like an important member of the class.
· Ask students to summarize the previous lecture in order to both reinforce ideas and facilitate participation.
· Employ the Socratic method in Lecture and Discussion Sections to ensure students understand concepts.
· Make extensive use of hand-outs, the course website, and audio-visual equipment so that students can listen in class rather than scribble notes, and Bruincast each lecture so it is available for students to review.
· Foster a non-competitive, team approach to learning the classroom
· Give take-home exams that encourage students to work together in groups and interact with each other. Students learn through teaching one another.
· Use a fail-safe system on take-home exams and quizzes. This system involves having students answer quiz or exam questions in class to demonstrate their grasp of the written response they provided.
· Give each class group-based oral exams in order to teach students how to speak in public and think on their feet.
· Use an integrative approach that emphasizes hands-on experiments, problem-solving, and connections between different subjects.
· Take a comprehensive approach-Discuss the historical relevance, social importance, and ethical implications of the subject matter.
· Teach a whole-class movie discussion section that deals with the relationship between science and society. This section utilizes popular movies to raise issues that cannot be adequately covered in class.
· Use only problem-oriented and essay question exams that require analytical thinking.
· Conduct in-class demonstrations such as DNA extractions and bacterial growth studies to give the student's the experience of scientific discovery.
Evaluations [back to top]
My teaching evaluations indicate that my classes are more difficult than others that the students have taken. Despite being difficult, my classes are very well-received by my students.
My instructor evaluations averaged 8.6 over the past five years (on a 9.0 scale). These included ratings of HC 70A (winter 2016, spring 2017, and winter 18, 19, and 20), and 8.63 for MCDB 199 (fall 16, 17, 18, and 19). Thus, I have been able to exceed an 8.5 instructor evaluation ratingin both general education courses and upper division seminar science teaching at UCLA.
My teaching evaluations document that my classes are successful at (1) stimulating learning efforts, (2) teaching students important conceptual information, (3) showing students how to think critically and challenge statements in class, (4) demonstrating that there is a different way to teach at the University, and (5) giving them a real learning experience that they will remember.
Teaching Honors [back to top]
I am very proud of my accomplishments in the classroom and I have been honored to have received recognition for my efforts, including being listed as one of the "Top Twenty Professors" in UCLA History. Other Honors include:
· Featured in "Best of LA Education People" by LA Weekly
· Class Selected as One of the Top Ten "Hottest Classes in America" by The Daily Beast
· Named by Newsweek Magazine as One of "America's Top Professors"
· Gold Shield Award For Excellence in Research and Undergraduate Education
· Luckmann Distinguished Teaching Award from the UCLA Academic Senate
· Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award from the UCLA Department of Biology, Division of Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
· Distinguished Faculty Teaching Award From the Biology Department
GRADUATE TEACHING [back to top]
I am also very committed to graduate and postgraduate education at UCLA. I have participated in many Graduate Seminars since my arrival at UCLA. Over the past 45 years or so I have trained over 37 scientists- Ph.D. students (10), M.S. Thesis students (2), Postdoctoral Fellows (19), and Visiting Scholars/Scientists (6). Many of my Ph.D. students received Outstanding Graduate Student Research Awards when they graduated [Joe Kamalay (1980), Jack Okamuro (1987), Diane Jofuku (1987), Susan Barker (1990), Gary Drews (1989), Ramin Yadegari (1996)].
Most of my former Thesis students and Fellows are now working their way up the academic ladder at major universities, and some have even reached Full Professor status. My graduate and postgraduate teaching has been very rigorous and intellectually demanding --- I expect a lot from my Thesis Students and fellows. However, I give back 150% in return. I am proud of the people who have trained in my laboratory, and they have evolved into independent teachers and scholars who continue reaching for the excellence that I drilled into them when they were in my lab. My students have now become their Professor's Professor.