Teaching Dossier

Summary of Major Accomplishments

Celeste Leander, Departments of Botany and Zoology

  1. Peer-reviewed teaching related publications:

Leander, C. and J. Whitton, 2010. Bling my Research! American Biology Teacher, 72:


Waltham, C., A. Kotlicki, G. Bates, and C. Leander, 2008. Canada’s National Grade 10

Science Contest: The Michael Smith Science Challenge. Physics Competitions,

10: 16-23.

Leander, C. and R. Huskey, 2008. Those Old Kentucky Blues. National Center for Case

Study Teaching in Science.


Instructor for Science One, Coordinated Sciences, and Biology 111. with previous

teaching of Biology 240, 140, 209, and 548.

Director, Coordinated Sciences Program (2009-2012)

Program design of new "light" version of coordinated sciences program (current, with

Ian Cavers)

• MIX pilot project instructor (interdisciplinary teaching: history and biology) (2009-

2010, with Carla Patterson)

• Undergraduate Research Opportunities founder and faculty advisor (including the

URO research database) (2006- 2010, with Ingrid Price and Sonja Embree)

TLEF grant ($30,000) for establishment of Undergraduate Research Opportunities

(2006, single applicant)

• Department of Energy co-principal investigator, Labyrinthuld genomics (2009-


• Active expert consultation for two international companies providing identification of

thraustochytrid strains (ongoing)

• Integrated Sciences advisor (5 students)

• General Biology program advisor (2008-current)

• Science One admissions committee (2005-present)

• Μajor Entrance Scholarship committee (2007-present)

Lab design and implementation of a term-long molecular biology project for Science

One (2006-present)

Secretary, Canadian Biology Olympiad (2008-present)

• Michael Smith Challenge exam co-writer (with Chris Waltham, physics) (2007-


Presenter at two Skylight Supper Series events (2008 and 2009)

Volunteer as Imagine Professor, Women in Science Day, University Hill Elementary

school science day, Meet Your Profs night, and other undergraduate activities.

A. Teaching Approach and Philosophy

1. Teaching Philosophy

“Thought flows in terms of stories - stories about events, stories about people, and stories

about intentions and achievements. The best teachers are the best story tellers. We learn

in the form of stories.”

Frank Smith

A good teacher is many things. Most importantly, a good teacher is inspirational. First

year biology introduces students to a vast spectrum of topics. I do this with stories. In

addition to mastering a rigorous curriculum, students gain an enormous amount of

enthusiasm for the subject by learning biology as a process, solving problems, and

relating biology to their lives every day.

A good teacher is flexible to student inquiries. I structure my courses such that students

have a large say in specific examples they’d like to learn more about. From one to three

lectures per term are “student choice” lectures. As long as it fits within the broad goals of

the course, almost anything goes. In the past two years, students have chosen such

diverse topics as “Human Sexual Selection”, “Bioterrorism”, “Evolution of Social

Systems”, and “Interference RNA”. I did not have a deep knowledge of any of these

topics when they were chosen, but I am willing expand my comfort zone and learn about

new areas that are exciting to my students. (This also functions as leading by example,

when students see me working through learning a new topic). The “student choice”

lectures are highly valued by students, and I enjoy them as well. Each new class typically

spends several weeks of the term in heated on-line debates as to what the chosen topics

will be. (I am expanding this concept in winter 2010 to encompass the full course, which

is discussed further in the Teaching Goals section).

A good teacher is current in the scientific and educational fields of research, and

encourages literacy in students. I start almost every lecture with a few minutes of

“Biology in the News.” These stories come from sources ranging from Nature News, to

the New York Times. I usually find news articles that relate to the subject we are

studying. It is not uncommon for students to send me links to stories they have seen in

the news, even years after they have left my class. These few minutes at the beginning of

class provide a societal context to curriculum these first year students are learning.

Students also learn to evaluate the scientific merit of various sources of information.

Sometimes we spend an entire lecture that unfolds from one news article. The daily news

articles are one of the favorite things my students comment on in end-of-year evaluations.

I stay current on education pedagogy by attending courses and meetings, reading current

educational literature, and incorporating new and exciting ideas into my classes. I took a

course in teaching with case studies, which has influenced my approach to the structure

of class time. I often pose a story in the form of a problem and encourage students to

think about how we are going to solve it. Many times, a case studies begin as a

discussion in class and continue as group work at home or during class time. Teaching

with cases is another way to encourage learning by engaging students in an interactive


Assessment of student work on a regular and fair basis is a critical attribute to any good

teacher. I regularly give feedback on weekly homework, case studies, and quizzes before

students take an exam. In this way, students know what to expect on the exam and are

prepared for the marking rigor. Evaluating essay style and problem-solving questions

gives me the most insight into what a student knows, the thought process put into solving

a problem, and where errors have occurred. Because I teach relatively small classes

(ranging from 75-150 students), I have the luxury of using these types of questions on

exams. While online quizzes occasionally incorporate multiple-choice style question

formats, the vast majority of problems that my students are exposed to (including exams,

case-studies, and homework) are essay-style or problem-solving questions where students

must support an idea, show work, and/or describe a thought process. I sometimes ask

open-ended opinion questions (highest order of Bloom's taxonomy), where marks are

allocated depending on a students’ ability to use information from the course to support

their own original idea. This exam format is often foreign to first-year students, and

while it typically generates some growing pains, the process is well-worth the outcome. I

am confident that students leave my courses with an increased ability to express thoughts

and argue reasonably.

Finally, a good teacher is available to their students. In addition to set office hours, I

have a general “open-door” policy. I am also available to my students (past and present)

on e-mail, Facebook, and through Vista on a continual basis. It is critical, especially for

first-year students, to have a large amount of access to their teachers. Many first-year

students are under an enormous amount of stress during this academic adjustment (and

often socially and personally, as well). Sometimes a well-timed reassurance message the

night before an exam makes all the difference.

2. Reflections on Teaching

I taught many different courses when I came to UBC, with the goal of eventually

specializing in first-year biology. My consistent teaching responsibilities now include the

biology section of the Coordinated Sciences Program (CSP) and Science One. These

multidisciplinary programs have provided a opportunity for me to watch other great

teachers, be creative in my teaching approach, and learn from my students.

One of the first lessons that I learned was to not over-prepare. The intent of both CSP

and Science One is to present science in a more holistic manner than traditional separate

disciplines. As such, the nature of lectures is rather fluid and flexible. The first year I

taught CSP, I prepared for months and had a rigid outline at the beginning of the term,

with most of my lectures prepared. When the term finally started, not only had I

forgotten the point of some of the lectures, but it also clearly didn’t work well with CSP

goals. As the term went on, I gave up on the schedule in favor of coordinating with the

other disciplines. For example, when students learn exponential growth in math, we do

population growth in biology. This approach turns out to be much more fun and

meaningful for both the faculty and the students. I continue to work on ways to ways to

coordinate topics as I prepare for the coming school year.

During the subsequent years in CSP and my first years in Science One, I began teaching

in a story telling style. By this time, I realized that these students will do what is asked of

them and will often rise to my expectations. (For example, they do read the text-book -

before they come to class.) I know this about this group of students, so it was not a good

use of time reiterating information that the text addresses well. I began posting a weekly

post-reading, pre-lecture quiz on Vista. The final question was always “What did you

find hard in the reading, or what do you want to learn more about?” Over the next couple

of years, I began reworking my lectures to address the most common questions and

misunderstandings by building lectures around stories. These often heavily involve

students in dialogue and discussions. As an example, in community ecology I give a

lecture titled “Life in the Anus of a Sea Cucumber”. The lecture is fun and exciting, and

students can apply information from their reading by figuring out which relationships in

the sea cucumber anus are commensal, parasitic, or mutualistic. There are so many fun,

interesting topics in biology- I know I’ll never run out of new material!

During my first few years in Science One, I set a goal to incorporate mathematical

modeling into my teaching of Biology. It was daunting, considering there are usually at

least two mathematicians in my lectures. I since have derived population growth models,

a model for bioaccumulation, energy flow, and a model for grey wolf community impact

in Yellowstone. (I now occasionally have students come to me to help them decipher

mathematical modeling in journal papers.) I’ve grown to appreciate the underlying

mathematics that supports biological inquiry, and my students benefit from seeing a few

examples of this (and seeing me struggle through them). As another example, I have

used the example of a peacock feather to illustrate structural color to Science One

students. This ties in nicely with their studies of diffraction and interference in physics

and chemistry.

I constantly work on writing exams. Because my lectures are tangential to, but not

exactly the same as the text, I have a tendency to ask exam questions that emphasize

lecture material. This often makes use of topics I expect the students to have been

exposed to from their reading, but since I didn’t emphasize it in lecture, some students

end up feeling confused. I recently adopted a strategy suggested by one of my teaching

evaluation committee members to present reading goals at the beginning of each section

of lecture material. The reading goals are separate from the learning goals presented in

lecture, and direct students to specific key topics they should master from their reading. I

do think this helps students navigate through the reading, and it also gives them an extra

study guide in preparation for exams.

I view teaching as a dynamic, creative endeavor. I often incorporate new ideas and

context in my classes. As an optional component to the CSP course in 2009 and in 2010,

students had the opportunity to partake in a Community Service Learning (CSL) project.

About 25% of the class participated. Some of them measured abiotic variables in

conjunction with establishing a rice paddy at a community farm in Richmond. Others

performed weekly or reading week projects at inner city schools. The CSL projects were

a highlight for students who participated. I have also encouraged students to explore the

biome around them with a digital "Tree I.D." project, where students have to identify the

five most common coniferous trees in the region, and make a movie of their collection.

(For the 2009 "Best Picture" award, see


3. Goals for Teaching

My goals for teaching are to inspire enthusiasm for biology, and create independent

thinkers and problem solvers. It is a student’s responsibility to learn; my job as an

educator is to steer them in the right direction and provide clarity and support for their

learning endeavor.

I have high expectations that my students come to class prepared. To facilitate their

preparation, I have active online support for my courses through Vista. Part of each

learning module includes preparatory material. In addition to textbook reading, I ask my

students to read various publications, complete practice problems, or visit web-sites. One

goal I have is to increase my students’ exposure to primary literature. I’d like to have

about half of their assigned preparatory reading coming from the text, and half to come

from journals or other resources. Students quickly learn that they are left out of exciting

discussions if they have not done the preparatory material, and I’d like to take advantage

of that in a positive way.

I also use e-learning to provide students with the PowerPoint lecture presentations. The

slides are not sufficient to stand alone, but provide necessary definitions and diagrams to

help class move along at a relatively brisk pace. While I think PowerPoint is an excellent

tool for teaching, I’d like to incorporate more “chalk-time” in my lectures. I’ve realized

that when students are working through complex pathways, processes, or problems, they

appreciate a step-by-step approach that I think is better presented by the process of


My teaching often involves going outside the classroom, sometimes at the students’

request. Most of my Biol 121 classes do periodic field-trips to the forest for an “Ecology

Scavenger Hunt”. When someone in my summer Biol 111 class asked about how to use

a scanning electron micrograph, I organized a special field trip to the electron microscopy

facility for them. About 20 students participated and a few were able to “drive” the

scanning electron microscope. I’ve also stopped in the middle of a lecture in Biol 111 to

run upstairs and get a sea anemone from the invertebrate zoology lab, because some

students had never seen one. I believe these sometimes spontaneous “adventures” are an

important and exciting part of my students’ experience, and I’d like to build on these


None of us are well defined by one adjective. I took part in a pilot project with a history

professor (Carla Paterson) to incorporate interdisciplinary learning at the first-year level.

The project (known as MIX) grew from a previous Science One student, who had a wish.

His wish was chosen as a UBC Terry-talk presentation during 2009, and was simply to

offer interdisciplinary learning to undergraduate students at UBC. In response, our

classes (first-year Biology and History) formed learning teams in the fall, and tackled

several problems throughout the term from the perspectives of both historians and

biologists. I hope that this program will give UBC graduates a better appreciation of

complementary solutions to problems we all face. (We will continue this offering in the

fall of 2010, as discussed further in the nest section).

I consider myself to be a perpetual learner. Additional specific teaching goals for the

upcoming academic year are to incorporate more cross disciplinary ties into my courses,

and to increase the catalog of case-studies I draw on in my lectures. Although I have used

case studies as homework and tutorial exercises for several years, I have fairly recently

started using them in lectures. I hope that using case-studies in lectures will further help

to unify the class and inspire enthusiasm for these real-life scenarios. Student feedback

to cases has been very positive with end-of-year suggestions to include more cases during

class time.

I am intrigued by the ideas of Just in Time Teaching and Student Directed Teaching.

When I think if an imaginary, ideal classroom, I am struck by the idea of a free-form

exploration with students taking complete ownership over the specific topics and

direction of class. I am planning to expand the "student choice" lectures (described above

on page 3) to the entire term next year. To accomplish this, I will come the first day of

class with a blank syllabus and will discuss and fill it out together with my students. I

hope they will experience a sense of ownership over their class through this endeavor.

  1. B.Teaching Activities

1. Teaching Responsibilities

Sometimes I feel like someone is going to learn my secret; I get to teach all the best

courses! My favorite part about the courses I teach are the diversity of students I

encounter throughout a given academic year.

September through April, I teach the Biology portion of Science One. The program is

challenging and time consuming, but the students are amazing. From an instructional

standpoint, the biggest benefit to being involved in this program is taking part in the other

core science courses each year. Because I attend almost all of the lectures in the other

subjects, I know what the students have been exposed to during any given week. As an

instructor, this is a very powerful tool. Not only has my own appreciation of the

interdisciplinary nature of science increased, but I have adopted portions from the other

subjects that I can build off of or massage into a unique biology curriculum. As an

example, I know when my students have learned about stable isotopes in physics or

chemistry. In those subjects, they learn that stable isotopes form more stable bonds.

Knowing this, I can transition into a lecture on stable isotope analysis in the temperate

rainforest. My teaching has improved enormously from my experience in Science One.

Science One also provides a unique experience for knowing students. It’s a small

program (70 students) and we have them for the entire academic year, including two

weekend field trips. The students spend an enormous amount of effort rising to the high

standards we expect from them. I’m proud to be a part of their education, and keep in

touch with many of them as they move on into mainstream programs.

In addition to lecturing in Science One, I teach tutorials three hours a week, every other

week, and small group discussion roughly one hour per week. Early in my Science One

career, I designed and implemented an environmental ecology field and lab activity with

the Science One students (see "teaching artifacts" for the lab guide). This idea arose from

student perceptions of first-year biology at UBC, and the conspicuous absence of

molecular biology experience. While impractical on a large scale, science one is an ideal

place to offer this type of hands-on experience. The students isolate DNA from a

plankton tow at the Bamfield Marine Station, and work most of the year in tutorials to

eventually identify an organism in the sample through DNA sequencing. As an alternate,

I developed an RFLP project for students to test themselves for genotype related to

lactose tolerance. (Although enjoyable, I typically favor the molecular ecology

experiment due to an increased skill set that students accumulate.) The students

appreciate exposure to current molecular biology techniques and additional hands-on

experience. Over the past five years, more than a dozen students have gone on to

volunteer with Marco Marra at the Genome Sciences Centre. Dr. Marra prefers these

student volunteers because of their molecular biology experience, and has offered at least

one a continual paid position. The remainder of the tutorials I lead are spent problem

solving, or investigating case studies that parallel lectures. In small groups, I have 8-10

students for one hour. I usually design a debate type of activity for them, or investigate a

more complex problem that can be best managed with fewer students. As an example, I

have students work in pairs to quantify their metabolic carbon cycle. With just a few

assumptions, students can calculate the mass of carbon dioxide they expel each year and

work this into a personal carbon cycle.

In January, I teach the Biology 121 section of the Coordinated Sciences Program (CSP).

This class is roughly double the size of Science One, and I only have them for one term.

However, they have had classes together since September, so by the time they arrive in

my class, they are clearly a unified cohort. What I enjoy about this class is that I can step

in immediately and take advantage of their established bond. For a large class which

meets at 8AM, they are extremely talkative, interested, and willing to work. I have used

PRS in this course in the past, but I’m not convinced that it is appropriate for this

particular group. I decide on PRS implementation on a year-to-year basis. As with

Science One, Vista is an important part of the management of CSP. The discussion board

is always active, and I assign problems and readings regularly. One of the unique aspects

of CSP is the weekly student tutorials. These are sometimes Biology related, and provide

an interesting contrast or compliment to lecture. The tutorial teaching team and I try to

parallel our topics.

In May, I teach an evening section of Biology 111. (This class is currently being taught

by another faculty member while I am directing the CSP program). These students tend

to be about 1/3 returning students, 1/3 computer science students, and 1/3 other. In a

way, they are in stark contrast to the students I teach during the academic year in that

many of them have no recent science experience at all. However, this is what I enjoy

most about this class. I can start from the ground up! They are generally quite an

interested group. In this class, I work a lot off of what their specific interests are. This is

the one and only time many of them will have biology, so I try to create an important,

meaningful experience for them. When I design the course each year, I try to incorporate

many of the top stories in the news that I assume they have been reading, but maybe

don’t understand scientifically. For example, we may examine ecological principals from

a global warming perspective. In terms of student profile, this class is the most diverse of

all those that I teach, but because the class meets from 7-10PM, we form an odd bond

with one another. I try to lecture about 90 minutes, and have them work as teams for the

other 90 minutes. The class uses the discussion boards heavily, since they are not on

campus during regular hours. Three years ago, the class became so close that they started

a recipe-trading stream on the WebCT discussion board. For this class in particular, I

hope the students leave with some basic knowledge of what science is, and some basic

skills for interpreting science that they will see in their daily lives.

2. E-learning and interdisciplinary learning contributions

In lecture, I utilize the internet, PowerPoint, video, and the blackboard or overhead.

My courses all have a heavy Vista component. Students always begin each unit (usually

one week of material) with assigned reading (text and/or news or primary literature). In

some courses, I assign post-reading quizzes over Vista that emphasizes key points from

the reading. Only when they have completed the post-reading quiz will they gain access

to the lecture slides. The lecture slides are an outline version of what I will show in class,

providing definitions and key concepts, but not sufficient to stand alone. They are meant

to supplement the student’s own notes. I typically have one or two optional items with

each unit. These are often interactive simulations, but are sometimes videos or news


In some courses, I utilize the “group” function of Vista. Students electronically join a

group on Vista. When I assign group work, one member can submit the assignment

electronically, and Vista will automatically assign credit to everyone in that group. In

concept I thought this was a great idea, but Vista had some bugs (i.e. not allowing

random students to receive assignments). I will tentatively use this function again, but

will anticipate extra time in coordinating groups.

I sometimes use clickers in the classroom. I typically start lecture once a week with a

few content-based clicker questions. This serves the purpose of giving students real-time

feedback on their understanding. I also use clickers as a survey tool. This is particularly

good at initiating discussions on decision-based topics such as clear-cutting or genetically

modified foods.

During the past two years, I have attempted to run a nearly paperless class. Other than

exams, I encourage students to submit everything electronically. Last spring, the Biol

111 class submitted “Digital Forest Ecology” collections over Vista. We went on a

mandatory field trip in the forest, where groups were given a dichotomous key and a

scavenger hunt list of items to find. Enough students had camera phones to ensure at

least one per group. Rather than collecting actual specimens, they took pictures and

submitted these electronically. Some groups submitted their projects as Youtube videos

(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJomdSKJwf8) and others submitted PDF files over

Vista. The hidden value of electronic submissions is a greater creativity in submission

format, and the ability to easily share great submissions with the rest of the class.

3. Undergraduate Research

I became interested in undergraduate research soon after I came to UBC. I was teaching

the Coordinated Sciences section of biology where I had many students interested in

obtaining a research experience. As I began placing a few students in colleague’s labs, it

became obvious that a centralized repository of undergraduate research opportunities was

needed. With a Skylight grant in 2005, the first directory was created and serviced the

departments of zoology and botany. The subsequent year, the directory expanded to

serve the faculty of sciences. In 2007, a TLEF grant was obtained to expand the service

university wide. This grant allowed me to purchase a server to house the directory, and

hire an assistant to oversee new undergraduate volunteers. The volunteers helped to build

the directory, and also pioneered many ongoing projects.

The undergraduate volunteers are now known as the URO crew (Undergraduate Research

Opportunities). They organize bi- weekly seminars on undergraduate research, hold a

workshop series on getting into and doing research, publish an undergraduate research

journal, and deliver an award to outstanding mentors to undergraduate research at UBC’s

research gala. The crew is also recognized as a Peer Program on campus. As such, they

help support other undergraduates in a research “buddy” system. In the upcoming year,

they will pioneer a new “Tour of the Month” of various research facilities on campus. In

the summer of 2008, the undergraduate research endeavor merged with the

Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Program and Conference. We decided that a

unified presence on campus would best serve the needs of undergraduates interested in


I currently oversee 37 undergraduate volunteers that organize and deliver the previously

mentioned events and activities to UBC students. I attend Peer Program meetings with

other advisors, help set-up equipment for seminars and workshops, and provide ongoing

creative and logistic support. I also interact regularly with Don Brooks (Vice President

of Research) and a sub-committee of deans who are negotiating the unified face of

undergraduate research at UBC. Although this project is time consuming, the rewards

are immense.

(Note: As of July 2010, URO activities have been suspended due to budget constraints.

We are currently working to document this project for publication that other universities

can use as a resource.)

4. Professional Development Activities

In the spring of 2007, I took a course in teaching with case studies in New York. I had

previously presented case studies in my classes, but I was struggling with some specifics.

I didn’t have a clear way to evaluate case study work, for example, and I often presented

cases as stories, without clear student expectations. The Stonybrook course addressed my

concerns and I came away with tangible methods for using cases effectively. I have since

developed several cases for use in my first year courses. This teaching method changed

my view of teaching and gave me skills to approach my lectures as a tool that students

can actively use in their learning. I also led a TAG supper series with Greg Bole on using

cases in teaching. My favorite methods for teaching cases are interrupted cases and

jigsaw cases. Interrupted cases give groups of students a small amount of information to

analyze at a time. I often use this method with scientific papers. The goal is for students

to learn to think like a scientist, and realize that there are many possible questions that a

study can address. This method has worked well with cases on succession after a

disturbance and parental selection of traits. In jigsaw cases, small groups of students

form expert teams. These teams form an opinion or argument based on the area of

expertise. Expert groups then re-form with one another, so that each new group has one

representative of each expert group. They then teach each other what they learned and

come to some sort of consensus on the issue at hand. The goal for this type of case

method is for students to appreciate the different aspects of policy making and the

importance of sound science. It is also a good introduction into the importance if

scientific literacy in general. I have used this approach with journal articles on

conservation and an activity based bioterrorism unit.

UBC has several peer support networks of which I have taken advantage. Most recently,

I took part in a Skylight endeavor on interdisciplinary peer review. I was matched with a

faculty member in computer science. I attended two of his lectures, and he attended two

of mine. Our overall approach to teaching was very similar, in that both classes were

primarily problem solving/discussion based. It was enlightening for me to review a class

where I was completely unfamiliar with the topic; it forced me to evaluate the actual

teaching (rather than content). We met with each other for feedback, and also gave

feedback to the Skylight team. I regularly participate in botany peer review as well.

I regularly take part in TAG workshops (recently on implementing real-time student

feedback, and interdisciplinary teaching). These workshops are enjoyable because they

offer a small venue for like-minded teachers to discuss important topics. One of these

workshops lead to the MIX interdisciplinary collaboration mentioned earlier.

I also attend teaching meetings and read journals regularly. My goal is to attend and

present at one meeting every two years. I will be traveling to Denver this fall to present

at the North American Biology Teachers conference. In 2011, I’d like to attend the North

American Science Teachers meeting.

5. Administration, Committee, and Community Services

I have agreed to direct the Coordinated Sciences Program for three years, beginning in

2009. This has been a fun experience, both in making small changes to the current

program, and in designing a new program in coordination with Ian Cavers. In response

to student suggestions, I changed the structure of faculty responsibility in the current

program this year. Rather than meet once per week as a teaching team, we agreed to

meet once every other week. During the alternate weeks, I expect teaching faculty to

participate for one hour in a CSP workshop. (Alternately, some faculty choose to

participate more in depth during specific weeks.) Student appreciated increased access to

their lecture faculty. This cross-interaction also helped to solidify student perception of

the link between workshops and lecture material. An end of year survey indicates that

students view professors as "more approachable" and "showed he or she cared" by

attending workshops.

In addition to structural changes, I have been evaluating some of the assumptions that are

built into the CSP experience. For example, we tend to assume that students make lasting

friendships and colleagues in the small group experiences of workshop. When asked,

however, many students comment that their close academic relationships are made in

lectures. In the associated lecture that I teach (Biol 121), I have students self organize

into groups for a term project. I compared how students self-sort in lectures compared to

workshop enrollment and was surprised to find that they tend to not sort according to

workshop. (Nineteen students sorted into groups where everyone was enrolled in the

same workshop, while 15 students sorted into groups where there was no-one else in the

same workshop. The remainder sorted themselves into groups with two or three people

in the same workshop, and two or three in other workshops.) Realizing that inter-student

relationships are not a primary driving force behind workshops will help us with design

of the small group experience that will be part of the new program.

During the summers, I spend a considerable amount of time helping to steer the new

Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO) unit on campus. This unit is funded

through UBC’s V.P. Research, V.P. Students, and V.P. Academics offices and

consolidates the various programs that serve undergraduate research (including what was

formerly known as ROAD, and MURP/MURC). I currently supervise 37 undergraduate

volunteers who run the programs associated with URO. I developed these programs to

complement the directory of undergraduate research opportunities that was created

through Skylight and TLEF funding. For details on these programs, please see part 3


I enjoy interacting with undergraduates, and typically attend several functions a year to

support undergraduates. I have been invited to participate in “Women in Science” night

for the past two years. I also maintain a LEAP faculty blog around undergraduate

learning. I participate in several departmental committees, including the teaching

evaluation committee of Sunita Chowhardi (since 2006) and curriculum review

committees (in various formats since 2006). In 2008, I was part of the merit review

committee for Botany, and the committee for constructing a Teaching Faculty Duties and

Guidelines document for zoology. Although these committees are rewarding, I tend to

favor committees contributing to the university on a larger scale. I have served on the

Major Entrance Scholarship committee since 2008. I also serve on the Rising Stars of

Research selection committee (also since 2008).

I currently serve as an academic advisor for the General Biology program and for

Integrated Sciences. Advising gives the unique opportunity to form a lasing bond with a

student, particularly in Integrated Sciences. I enjoy talking with students about their

plans and helping to fashion a path that will be successful.

Outside of actual committees, I contribute by helping the write the Michael Smith

Challenge exam (since 2006), and am involved in pioneering the MIX interdisciplinary

teaching endeavor described above. I also served as the secretary for Canada’s Biology

Olympiad this year. Branching out further into the community, I am an advisor for a

sorority and deliver “Science Days” several times a year for classes at University Hill

Elementary. I also volunteer at many university events such as Imagine Day and Women

in Science.

In addition to my formal teaching, I participate in teaching in the community several

times a year. In the past, I have taught for Humanities 101. I typically go to University

Hill elementary school a few times a year with a collection of skeletons for an informal

“Science Day”. This year I worked with a 5th grade class where I brought in 12

skeletons of various animals, and the class used their observational skills to make a

phylogeny. I also brought in nutritional agar, and students sampled locations in the

school for microbes. When I returned the next week, we made a bar graph of microbes in

the school. In the summer, I have taught an ecology workshop for SHAD. Recently, I

co-taught two Science Supper Series workshops on teaching Science with Case Studies

and MIX (interdisciplinary learning across faculties). These experiences help me feel a

sense of belonging in the community.

6. Publications

Although I enjoy the biological research I continue during the summers as a taxonomic

consultant as well as for my own interest, my publications have shifted towards the

creative aspect of teaching. I enjoy designing and publishing case studies and activities.

I also design and deliver molecular biology mini-labs to Science One each year (see

teaching artifacts for the lab manual). More recently, I have been involved in writing

joint papers describing Science One and the Michael Smith Challenge.

7. Teaching Awards and Evaluations

I was honored to be nominated for a Killam Teaching Award in 2007. First year students

are typically not aware of these types of opportunities to nominate their instructors. I was

awarded a Faculty Service Award for teaching during the same year. My student

evaluations are consistently high. I take student comments seriously and try to

incorporate real-time feedback into my teaching style, in response to mid-term openended

feedback. Each cohort of students develops a preferred learning style, and I try to

meet their desires and needs. Across the board, students mention that they like coming to

class “even at 8AM” because lectures are fun and interesting. “Interesting” is a noble

description for first year students to choose. If nothing else, I want students to remember

in 25 years, that biology is interesting and worth learning.

As I have moved away from content-based delivery, students have responded well.

Feedback suggests that students like the “news of the day” features, discussions, and case

studies that form the structure of my classes.