The Filene Teaching Award is given out annually to the graduate student teaching assistant who best exemplifies the qualities of a college educator. One of this year’s recipients, Jennifer Taylor, is a PhD student in the Department of Chemistry.
For many PhD students, high-level science can be an isolating experience. For Jennifer Taylor, being an undergraduate teaching assistant means sharing her scientific knowledge and skills with others.
As a PhD student in chemistry, Taylor has taught three terms of undergraduate chemistry and two terms of biochemistry at Dartmouth thus far. Having already completed her required coursework, most of her time is devoted to research in the lab. Teaching allows Taylor to interact with undergrads on a personal and professional level, an opportunity that she largely credits to her advisor’s encouragement.
“My advisor, Jon Kull, has been incredibly supportive of our development as both teachers and researchers,” says Taylor.
For Taylor, creating a work environment that fosters creativity and encourages questions is paramount. In order to create a relaxed atmosphere, she says it’s important to “throw in some personal things.” She often lets her students create “lab playlists” of songs to listen to while conducting experimentsin the laboratory. In turn, students feel comfortable reaching out to Taylor with research inquiries and concerns.
“They definitely don’t hesitate to come to me with all sorts of problems,” laughs Taylor.
While she enjoys working with undergraduates, Taylor says that she prefers advising more experienced students with vested interests in science. One undergraduate student, under Taylor’s tutelage, has since joined the Kull lab as a researcher. For Taylor, it’s this sort of personal connection with students that make teaching so rewarding.
“She’s grown a lot in the past few years that I’ve been working with her,” says Taylor. “She’s much more confident of her skills in the lab.”
Biochemistry labs often require long hours of prep work, with tasks ranging from dividing up portions of reagents to labeling test tubes, and Taylor has become adept at balancing her personal life with her research and teaching. In addition to being a full-time graduate student, she is also the parent of an eleven-year-old daughter.
“I definitely apply teaching methods to my parenting, and apply my parenting skills to my teaching,” laughs Taylor. “Time management is key for both.”
Learn more about the Filene Teaching Award at Dartmouth.
by Erin O’Flaherty
photo by Erin O’Flaherty