Fellowship Opens Opportunity for Biology Grad Students to Test Drive Teaching

Matt Atkinson in the classroom.

A new fellowship offered by the Department of Biology gives doctoral students the chance to experience what it’s like to be in charge of the classroom.

The doctoral teaching fellowship debuts this fall, and walks Ph.D. candidates through the process of designing and teaching their own courses. Matthew Atkinson is one of the first to participate.

“As a student, I can attest that in the majority of doctoral programs the most exposure you’ll get in the classroom will most likely be as a teaching assistant in a lab, grading lecture exams or something of the sort,” said Atkinson. “This fellowship is different in the sense that it will give us the experience of actually running our own class and taking on the role of a professor.”

Research often receives the most emphasis in a doctorate program, leaving students interested in academia less than prepared for a teaching post. The new fellowship flips that model and offers student interested in academia a chance to test drive their dream.

“I’ve had amazing professors throughout my academic career that have inspired my decision to teach,” said Atkinson. “This opportunity is exciting because I’ll be able to draw on that inspiration and bring it into my own classroom.”

Graduate Program Director and Professor Ken Fedorka, Ph.D, hopes that the program will provide students with first-hand experience that gives them a competitive edge in the marketplace.

“Traditionally we train graduate students to be scientists with the expectation that they go on to have fruitful careers in research at private or public institutions,” said Fedorka. “But many of our students forgo a career like this and instead teach at the high school, junior or collegiate level. I devised this fellowship to train a small number of graduate students heading down this path in the hopes of making them more competitive in the job field and more competent and confident in the classroom.”

Atkinson will be teaching a biology for non-major’s course with the responsibility of creating his own lectures and lessons. His aim as an educator is to inspire students to acknowledge their impact on our biological world.

“I’m looking forward to interacting with the students and getting them to think about how they can change and sustain the world we live in,” said Atkinson.


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