Skip to main content

A Joy of Teaching

One of the sad ironies of modern education is that the more expert you become in your field, the harder you have to work to be able to get in front of a classroom. It comes as no surprise.  Our primary role (mine is 80%) is research, leaving only 20% for teaching, and that is mostly satisfied by direct supervision of graduate students. 

I'm also a full-time administrator, so that takes the rest of my time.  I get to do a lot of guest lectures and teach about 25% of a graduate course in the area of sensory biology and biochemical signal transduction. 

This semester I had a problem.  A scientist on the faculty here was serving in Washington with NSF.  He taught undergraduate molecular biology, a key course for many students.  

There is no possible way that I should have taken on teaching an undergraduate course.
But wow, I'm so glad I did. 

While I should never have done it, I jumped at the chance to teach his course, and ended up teaching the first third of it.  

It was a pleasure to talk about the fundamentals of DNA and RNA, about basic biochemistry and the techniques and methods that shape our foundation of modern biotechnology. 

They were a quiet class.  It was at 8:30 in the morning and that might have something to do with it. 

Yesterday I gave them the exam.  It was my last time with them.

As they turned in their exams something very unusual happened. 

I'd say about half of them held out their hand for a handshake and said thank you. 

I have to always remember that day.  Opportunities to share science are frequent, and they take tremendous time, preparation and effort. 

This time I got the feeling that it was truly appreciated, and maybe those efforts made a difference.  

Popular posts from this blog

Scientific American Destroys Public Trust in Science

This is a sad epitaph, parting words to an old friend that is now gone, leaving in a puff of bitter betrayal. 
When I was a kid it was common for my mom to buy me a magazine if I was sick and home from school.  I didn't want MAD Magazine or comic books.  I preferred Scientific American
The once stalwart publication held a unique spot at the science-public interface, bringing us interesting and diverse stories of scientific interest, long before the internet made such content instantly accessible.  It was our trusted pipeline to the new edges of scientific discovery, from the mantle of the earth to the reaches of space, and every critter in between.
But like so much of our trusted traditional science media, Scientific American has traded its credibility for the glitz of post-truth non-scientific beliefs and the profits of clickbait.The problem is that when a trusted source publishes false information (or worse, when it hijacked by activists) it destroys trust in science, trust in s…

Chipotle's Ag-vertising to Fix their Anti-Ag Image

After years of anti-farmer rhetoric, disgusting anti-agriculture videos, and trashing farmer seed choice, Chipotle now seems to have found a love for the American farmer that is as warm and inviting as the gooey core of a steak burrito.  Their new "Cultivate the Future of Farming" campaign raises awareness of the hardship being experienced in agriculture, and then offers their thoughts and some seed grants in order to reverse it. 

But are they solving a problem that they were instrumental in creating? 

The crisis in agriculture is real, with farmers suffering from low prices, astronomical costs, and strangling regulation.  Farmer suicides are a barometer of the crisis.  Farms, from commodity crops to dairies, are going out of business daily. It is good to see a company raising awareness. 

From Chipotle's website- The "challenge is real" and "It's a hard living"-- and companies like Chipotle were central in creating those problems. 

However, Chipotle&#…

Mangling Reality and Targeting Scientists

Welcome to 2019, and one thing that remains constant is that scientists engaging the public will continue to be targeted for harassment and attempted reputation harm.  

The good news is that it is not working as well as it used to.  People are disgusted by their tactics, and only a handful of true-believers acknowledge their sites as credible. 

But for those on the fence I thought it might be nice to post how a website like SourceWatch uses a Wikipedia-mimic interface to spread false and/or misleading information about public scientists. 

Don't get me wrong, this is not crying victim.  I'm actually is screaming empowerment.  I spent the time to correct the record, something anyone can check.  Please look into their allegations and mine, and see who has it right. 

This is published by the Center for Media and Democracy.  Sadly, such pages actually threaten democracy by providing a forum for false information that makes evidence-based decisions in policy issues more challenging.  It…