Neale

molecular biophysics

Teaching Philosophy

I aim to instill in my students an interest in the topic at hand, an understanding of the utility of mastering that topic, and a core set of knowledge that will be useful to the student in the future. 

In general, I will begin my lectures by putting the material to be covered in the context of a larger framework of obvious importance. I will then outline the lecture content in detail. As I proceed through the main section of the lecture, I will use clicker tests to identify points of misunderstanding. Finally, each lecture will be concluded with a simple exercise in problem-based learning that requires a logical extension of the principles that have been conveyed in the lesson. Comprehensive lecture notes will be provided so that students are not required to take excessive notes during class, although note-taking will be encouraged. Take-home reading and selected problems will be assigned to provide a different presentation of the material and to allow the students to gauge their own understanding. The results of in-class clicker tests will be compiled and provided to the students to highlight empirically difficult sections of the material for further study prior to examinations. 

As a teaching assistant in a histology laboratory at the University of Waterloo, I taught students the microscopic anatomy of human tissues. As third-year biology undergraduates, these students already had a basic understanding of the functional roles of the various human organs. Taking advantage of this existing knowledge, I used the tissue sections to show the students how the microscopic components of each organ lead to its macroscopic function, rather than simply asking the students to memorize that a particular morphology is connected to a particular tissue. In this way, I made it easier for the students to incorporate new information with their existing knowledge base. As the students then proceeded to memorize the names of the different components of each microstructure, they found it easy to learn the names of structures that already made functional sense to them.

Another example of my teaching philosophy is derived from my doctoral and postdoctoral studies, during which I mentored eight students from four different research groups. During my studies, it was common for a colleague to approach me for technical assistance related to implementing a theoretical approach or analysis method. Here, I recognized the importance of teaching fundamental principles rather than simply providing the often trivial piece of requested technical information. By building upon a solid base of fundamental principles, not only did I provide the information that the student thought they needed, I also provided them with a deeper understanding of the subject material, which developed their ability to answer related questions in the future using their own reasoning. Furthermore, I always endeavor to include students in the process of writing proposals for the computational resources they require. This helps trainees to formulate the big picture that motivates their research. 

I look forward to the opportunity to engage in undergraduate research and to train graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. My doctoral and postdoctoral research has been very scientifically rewarding and I am eager to convey my enthusiasm, knowledge, and problem solving abilities to the trainees under my supervision and to other trainees in the department.