Teaching Statement

Teaching Experience

I have extensive and diverse teaching experience that has been gathered over a decade in academia. My first teaching experience was during the final years of my undergraduate education at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), where I was recruited as a teaching assistant for the general biology laboratory series. In this role I was responsible for assisting with laboratory setup, answering questions during lab periods, and engaging students with the material presented each session. My most substantial teaching experience came during my Ph.D. at the University of Texas, Arlington (UTA), where I was a teaching assistant every long fall/spring semester and most summers over a six-year period. Over that time period I mostly served as a graduate lab instructor for zoology labs. However, I took on the role as lead instructor for zoology labs for the final four years of my Ph.D. and also served as the sole instructor for a revamped human anatomy lab, which gave me significant experience in developing curriculum, preparing teaching materials, ordering supplies, and managing teaching assistants and students. I was fortunate to be involved with an upper-level course with fewer logistical constraints, as it allowed me a greater amount of autonomy in how I managed my classroom. As a result, I adapted existing teaching materials to reduce lecturing and emphasize student lab exercise engagement followed by facilitated discussion of important concepts. Overall, I received positive feedback on my teaching and believe I effectively conveyed crucial undergraduate biology topics in the areas of ecology and evolution to over 750 students.

During my Ph.D., I also served as a volunteer instructor for The Carpentries (Software & Data Carpentry), where I organized one workshop and taught and co-organized six workshops at UTA and taught two workshops at other US locations. My engagement with this organization was born out of significant personal effort in learning how to effectively work with my own massive, genomic datasets. This difficulty compelled me to use my newly-developed knowledge and skills to fill an important gap that currently exists across numerous academic fields in the age of ‘big data’: lacking expertise and course offerings centered on best-practices for data analysis. I became proficient in teaching several critical software frameworks for interdisciplinary data analysis and visualization: the Unix Shell, the R environment for statistical computing, Python programming, and Git/GitHub version control. My enthusiasm for this curriculum led me to co-found UTA Carpentries which was one of two instructor groups awarded training from The Carpentries in the United States (out of 25 applications). Since instructor training was completed in 2015, this group of 10+ instructors and I have successfully run 10 two-day, intensive workshops training over 300 learners in these important concepts.

Teaching Goals & Strategy

Classroom Setting

I take great pride in my teaching and strive to do my best to educate the next generation of global citizens. Above all else, my main goal, and the primary aim of education systems in general, is to teach my students how to think critically and self-educate. These two skills are vital in any profession and science is a particularly well-suited discipline for fostering these abilities. I aim to use a teaching model that emphasizes active engagement with course material rather than passive education, as active learning has been shown to promote a better learning environment. Students will take part in engaging, collaborative activities, including group activities, peer teaching, and class discussions. I will also take advantage of the laboratory time built into science courses, which lends well to this teaching paradigm. I plan to leverage technology wherever possible, including the use of ‘clickers’ and Google Classroom in large, general classrooms and adopting hands-on computer exercises in upper-level or graduate courses that dissect the models underlying important biological concepts (e.g., using the learnPopGen R package to teach genetic drift).

Research Environment

Mentorship and professional training are perhaps the most impactful roles I will serve in academia, as I directly influence the career development and prospects of beginning scientists. I believe in a hands-on approach where my mentee and I directly engage research projects as partners. During my doctoral and postdoctoral research, I mentored 6 undergraduate research assistants in a one-on-one fashion. These mentees contributed greatly to my research projects and were awarded authorship on several research articles (Card et al. 2018. Molecular Ecology; Card et al. 2019. Genome Biology & Evolution; Card et al. In Review.). I plan to adapt this approach and use inspiration and guidance from senior scientists to form a vibrant, extramural-funded research program. I also believe in a collaborative and integrative research environment, where cooperation between students on research projects is encouraged. I aim to provide this type of environment through careful coordination of research projects within my group and by collaboration with other lab groups at the university. This gives students broader exposure to areas of research and diverse training and skills-set development, while also providing ample authorship opportunities that are vital for their future career prospects. Finally, I am also committed to building an environment that is inclusive and safe for mentees of all backgrounds. Through my past experience in scientific leadership positions, I have gained training in mediating conflicts and fostering diversity in science that will be invaluable in managing a diverse and productive research group.

Teaching Interests and Capabilities

As part of my professional preparation, I have transitioned through several fields of biological research, including organismal biology, ecology, and conservation (B.S.; ESF), molecular phylogenetics, biogeography, and population genomics (Ph.D.; UTA), and developmental biology, comparative genomics, and functional genomics (Postdoc; Harvard). My collaborative approach to my research has also provided me further experience in cutting-edge projects on sex chromosome evolution and sexual dimorphism, genome structure and function, and methods development in population genetics and phylogenetics. I am, therefore, comfortable teaching or co-teaching a broad array of topics, including courses related to evolutionary biology, population genetics and phylogenetics, molecular biology and genetics, or other courses related to my research experience. I also welcome the opportunity to engage students through the development of seminar-style classes covering modern topics at the intersection of evolutionary biology and genomics.

Teaching Dossier

A full teaching dossier outlining my teaching experience is available here.

Last Updated: 2022-10-01