Behind the scenes in a 650-student biology course

For the past year, I have worked as a teaching assistant (TA) for BIS2C (Biodiversity and the Tree of Life), which is the third and final course in the introductory biology series at UC Davis. Successful completion of the introductory series is required before students can move on to take upper division biology courses. The course is offered every quarter, with enrollments ranging from 600-1000 students. Those students attend four 1-hour lectures and one 3-hour lab each week. I want to use this blog post to give you some insights into the people and resources that make such a large course possible. Continue reading


Book Review: “Building a Career in America’s Community Colleges”

If you’ve spent much time looking around my blog, you know that I am very interested in a career in college teaching. This interest has led me to look very closely at community colleges as a good option. I really like what I’ve seen so far – particularly the strong focus on teaching, small class sizes, and the mission of helping all students learn. However, my educational experiences thus far have all been at large research-focused state universities. This means that before I can make the case that I’m a good fit for a position at a community college, I need to learn more about how these institutions work and what it means to be a teacher at one.

As part of this learning process, I recently read “Building a Career in America’s Community Colleges,” by Rob Jenkins, a long-time community college faculty member and administrator. Continue reading

Teaching postdoc? An interview with Dr. Lisa Auchincloss

As I’ve became more and more serious about pursuing teaching as a career, one of the people I’ve regularly turned to for advice is Dr.Lisa Auchincloss, who graduated from my graduate group at UC Davis last year.  While at Davis, Dr. Auchincloss did her doctoral research on stress ecophysiology of cottonwood with professor Jim Richards. She also did a wide variety of teaching and science communication-related activities, including TAing for an innovative online course on global climate change. After graduating, she worked briefly as an adjunct professor at American River College and then accepted a position as a biology education postdoc with Dr. Erin Dolan at the University of Georgia. I had heard about “teaching postdocs” before, but didn’t know much about them, so I asked Dr. Auchincloss if I could interview her to find out more. Here’s the result: Continue reading