Teaching Philosophy & Experience

My teaching approach is based on explaining underlying principles and any logical connections between them, and then helping the students to use the acquired knowledge and skills to build an in-depth understanding of the subject matter at hand. Creating working hypotheses and their careful testing using both scientific literature and experiments is central in successful science education. Additionally, solving numerical problems is crucial to give students a feeling for the magnitude of the phenomena that are being studied. I value making connections between chemistry and everyday life observations and believe this often sparks the curiosity of students and helps them to relate to the material, which is essential for retaining learned information. A major area of interest for me is the history of science and technology, and when explaining topics, I like to give many thought-provoking examples from the past. I will regularly offer constructive feedback to the students to make them aware of their progress as well as their shortcomings that need improvement. I will particularly encourage students to pose their own questions, and to propose ways, including those that are real or theoretical, to give a satisfactory answer.

In my own laboratory, I will work toward creating an environment that fosters scientific independence, which should be a focus in any graduate program. After gaining enough experience, my students will be encouraged to generate their own ideas, and after discussion with me and their colleagues within the group, they will be given the opportunity to try their ideas. My students will describe their research results and future plans regularly in a format resembling a presentation at a scientific meeting and also in a written “article-like” form. I believe this is of crucial importance for them to build confidence in their own research plans and ideas. Additionally, the students will develop presentation and writing skills, which will be necessary in their future academic or industrial careers. Ultimately, my goal will be to help my students reach scientific maturity, with enough confidence and accomplishments to proceed to the next step of their lives.


Classroom Experience

I have been very interested in education since my early years in college, where I started as a teaching assistant during my sophomore year. I taught lab courses for the physical chemistry and advanced instrumental classes and assisted with the synthetic organic chemistry and quantitative analysis laboratory technique demonstrations. My education experience in the laboratory did not stop at my teaching assistant duties. As a research assistant supported by the Robert A. Welch Foundation, I taught other students, who joined our laboratory, how to conduct organic syntheses, perform analyses, and design experiments.

As a graduate student, I had similar, yet more developed experiences in both my teaching and research assistant duties. As a teaching assistant, I assisted the quantitative analysis and advanced inorganic chemistry laboratory courses. For the advanced inorganic laboratory course, I helped to develop a laboratory experiment in collaboration with my Ph.D. advisor and one of the course professors. It has been used as a part of the curriculum since Fall 2010, and the documentation of our implementation has been recently submitted to the Journal of Chemical Education. As a research assistant, I have had the opportunity to advise several undergraduates, one of whom has been a co-author on 2 of my peer-reviewed publications and is currently a Ph.D. student in polymer science at the University of Southern Mississippi.


Extracurricular Experience

As both an undergraduate and graduate student, I have had the fortunate opportunity to be involved with and co-organize a number of science outreach activities. As an undergraduate, I was responsible for organizing countless chemical demonstrations for local elementary and alternative schools. I took the “Chemical Demonstrations” course elective offered by my undergraduate research advisor and was able to hone my craft as a demonstrator. I was also responsible for organizing the nationally-recognized “Demos in the Dark,” an annual chemical demonstration show put on for the public in return for donations to the local food bank. For two years, I also helped co-organize the chemistry department’s annual, week-long summer chemistry camp for elementary school students (3rd – 5th grades). I have given a number of presentations at national meetings on these activities as well as other community initiatives I helped to develop as the president of the university’s ACS Student Chapter (2007-2010).

As a graduate student, I was an active co-organizer of our department’s annual summer chemistry camp (2012-2015). Along with my Ph.D. advisor, I helped design several demonstrations and developed a website as a public repository for experiments and advertisement of our camp (www.chemistrylounge.org). We most recently collaborated with the Meadows Museum of Art where we put on a show, consisting of a number of demonstrations involving the chemistry of color. I was also chosen as a semifinalist in the American Chemical Society’s “Chemistry Champions” competition (a contest aimed at training future public science communicators) for my video entry explaining my research in simplified terminology. I also recently gave a talk on the history of chemistry sets and their impact on society, which I am currently turning into an article to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

I also have experience in consulting education, most recently having consulted for a small biomedical company by providing an understanding of basic chemistry concepts to their non-scientific administration. I was also able to help streamline their synthetic procedures and develop techniques, which they use today. I have also tutored many  college and high school students, with my clientele being entirely referral-based. My most notable student was a high school student who had never taken chemistry before and was in need of training to be accepted to an AP Chemistry course. I was able to develop a general chemistry course, tailored to their needs, and was able to successfully teach them the concepts, typically covered in a year-long high school chemistry course, over a period of 2.5 months.