FuSE Blog Post: Session 7

Posted: 09 04, 2015

Future Science Educator Blog Post: Session 7

By Cathryn J. Kurkjian, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow & FuSE Member

How do you become an effective educator? When it comes down to it, that’s all we are trying to figure out, isn’t it? Session 7 of the TIBBS summer series was a panel of current and former SPIRE scholars willing to share their experience and expertise in science education.


Let’s take a step back. What is SPIRE, you ask? The SPIRE postdoctoral fellowship program at the University of North Carolina is a competitive program for scientists interested in a career that balances bench work and teaching. That’s right – if you want to follow your passion of education, there is a program out there (in fact, there are many throughout the country if you Google “IRACDA”) that allows you to get teaching experience without the guilt of being torn away from bench work… Awesome!


Now, back to the panel. Below are some very valuable words of wisdom and advice provided by current and former SPIRE scholars.


  • Jason Andrus stressed that there are three major things that contribute to being an effective teacher. First, you must have passion; without it, how can you expect students to want to learn from you? Next, you must be compelled; you want your students to know and appreciate what you are teaching them. And lastly, you must create an environment that encourages learning. Ultimately, you must find your voice.
  • Kim Monahan also stressed the importance to learning who you are and how that influences your ability to be an effective teacher. You must get out of the lab and get into the classroom – experience is key!! Mentor an undergrad, become a judge at a science fair, guest lecture at your university; simply put, find the different routes to get into the field of science education and follow them. Not only will this get you experience, but it will broaden your network of peers and mentors.
  • Erin Shanle and Dr. S. Alex Marshall are current SPIRE scholars, and I think their words of wisdom resonated with a lot of us in the audience. They were frank with their current experiences of teaching at the college level, noting the things they felt went well and the techniques or behaviors that they wanted to change in future classes. They are learning the challenges to teaching in environments that they are not used to – Isn’t is crazy to think that you may be teaching individuals that are you parents age?! But they were optimistic, sharing with us their growth through their involvement in the SPIRE program and through their personal experiences of teaching.


And for those of you itching to get out there right this minute and start broadening your teaching experience, Dr. Jason Andrus is always looking for guest lecturers!


Mastering Biology — http://www.pearsonmylabandmastering.com/northamerica/masteringbiology/

Versatile PhD — https://versatilephd.com/

MIT open courseware — http://ocw.mit.edu/index.htm

UNC TIBBS Linkedin — https://www.linkedin.com/grp/home?gid=8342071

UNC SPIRE postdoctoral fellowship program — http://spire.unc.edu/index.html

IRACDA Participating Institutions — http://www.nigms.nih.gov/training/careerdev/pages/partinstIRACDA.aspx



SPIRE Scholars: Past and Present

Erin Shanle, PhD, current SPIRE scholar

S. Alex Marshall, PhD, current SPIRE scholar

Kim Monohan, PhD, former SPIRE scholar and Instructor of Biology at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics

Jason Andrus, PhD, former SPIRE scholar and Associate Professor at Meredith College

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