Teaching is important (and fun)

I believe that we all have something to teach and something to learn.  As a teacher, I get to clarify what I know and identify what I don’t know well enough (or at all).  I also have to unlearn things so that I can see things from different perspectives; this is one of my favorite challenges because bringing a fresh eye to old scientific dogma often leads to new and exciting research questions.  I also learn from my students, both in the lab and in courses.  Being part of an interdisciplinary field like systems biology means that there are whole fields that are relevant for our work but that I never got to formally study myself.  Students bring expertise from all sorts of other disciplines, as well as their curiosity and enthusiasm.  But perhaps the most important reason for me to teach is to pay back my own teachers, who were critical people in my life, intellectually and personally.  Andrew Murray put together a fantastic video called “Teaching Matters” where he discusses these ideas and more; I highly recommend it.

SB212 : Science Communication

Communicating effectively is an essential scientific skill but rarely explicitly taught. Scientists must tell people about their work—their colleagues, the broader scientific community, students and the general public. All of these audiences have different levels of expertise and different goals for learning about science. Therefore each audience needs a specific message tailored to them. Not only must scientists tailor their message, they must also deliver it in a variety of different formats—in graphics, in writing, and in talks. Scientists with strong communication skills are better teachers, better colleagues, and more persuasive advocates for science. And yet we do not typically teach scientific communication directly.

To address this gap, we designed a class where students learn scientific communication in the context of problems relevant to their own research. We address three modes of scientific communication: graphics, writing and presentations.  Across all of these sections, we emphasize three core principles: teaching a process, finding the essential story and getting critical feedback. Each section consists of hands-on exercises in small peer groups. We explicitly teach students how to lead these groups and how to constructively critique one another.

We’re currently working on making our modular curriculum publicly available.  If you are interested in teaching or learning science communication, please send us a note using the adjacent form.  We’ll keep you updated!

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Interested in science communication?

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SB201 : The Systems Biology of Development

SB201 is a discussion-based course whose goal is to explore research topics in Developmental Biology that can be illuminated by systems-level concepts and techniques. The course focuses on disagreements, puzzles, and controversies in the field. Students deliver short lectures to their classmates and lead discussions on selected topics in Development. These talks are mentored by the faculty and TA.

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J-term bootcamps

In the January term, we participate in a bootcamp where students conduct one-day hands-on mini-rotations in multiple labs. In 2015, we will be part of the Genetics course.

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