UCF Alumna and Classroom Chemist

Erin SaittaErin Saitta, ’06, ’10, studied both chemistry and education, preparing her for her career as a faculty developer at UCF.

Dr. Saitta graduated in 2006 with her bachelor’s degree in science education and with a minor in chemistry. Four years later she graduated from UCF with her doctorate of philosophy in chemistry in 2010.

Dr. Saitta says what she learned at UCF equipped her with the skills she uses in her current job. As the assistant director of the UCF Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning, she assists faculty in learning about and implementing effective classroom techniques, conducts classroom-based research, and serves on advisory boards for programs dedicated to the advancement of STEM students. And as a UCF alumna, she has valuable insights about the campus culture and student experience.

“My favorite thing about my job is that every day I get to work with people who are excited to make UCF a better place for students. Much of this work is with faculty, but I also get to work with graduate teaching assistants, administration, and community partners. There have been so many times when I have either been traveling for conferences, starting a new research project, or conducting a classroom observation that I have stopped and thought about how lucky I am that I have such a fun job,” shared Dr. Saitta.

Dr. Saitta was convinced to change her career path from a chemist who works in a lab to a chemist who works in a classroom during her time as a SARC tutor in her undergraduate experience at UCF. She loved being part of a team of motivated tutors who helped UCF students prepare for class, learn how to study, and solve problems.

Dr. Saitta shares more about her time as a UCF student, UCF employee, and offers valuable advice to UCF students and alumni.

Why did you choose to attend UCF?

There were three main reasons I was drawn to UCF. First of all, the chemistry program is accredited by the American Chemical Society, which indicated to me its standard for excellence and opportunities for research. Secondly, UCF is strategically placed for industry partnerships, culture, and recreation, which were all things I wanted in a college town. And finally, I was drawn to UCF’s size. I felt like there would always be exciting things to do and new things to learn; there is no shortage of programs to help students get involved and become part of the community.

Were you involved in any extracurricular activities at UCF?

I was very active in UCF’s chemistry club, the American Chemical Society Student Affiliates. I served as an officer for many years. We had a blast conducting outreach, visiting local industries, volunteering, attending local and national conferences, hosting speakers, and celebrating national chemistry week. In fact, the year I was president, we received a recognition award from our national organization for the programing and activities submitted in our annual report. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet amazing friends, learn about the profession, and connect to the community.    

What is your best UCF memory?

In graduate school, part of my doctoral work involved going to Kennedy Space Center to remediate sections of a launch umbilical tower that was used in past space missions. It was exciting to see my research being applied first hand and even more thrilling that it was in collaboration with such a historic and admirable partner as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

What is your most memorable experience on the job?

My most memorable experience so far has been collaborating with my director and a colleague from the chemistry department on an innovative chemistry laboratory module. The experience demonstrated to me the positive impact campus collaborations can bring. Moreover, I appreciated the fact that the module was well received by the students, and I was beside myself when the journal SCIENCE chose to publish it.

What piece of advice would you give to current students as well as UCF alumni?

To current students, I would suggest traveling or participating in study abroad since I regret not doing more of that as a student. I would also advise them to take advantage of all the opportunities UCF has to offer, both academic and recreational. Make sure studies come first, but try to find time to go to a sporting event, take a class at the Recreation and Wellness center, and get involved with undergraduate research.

To UCF alumni, I would encourage sharing your experiences at UCF. There are many impressive UCF initiatives and programs that are worth celebrating, and sharing this information is a great way for alumni to continue to advocate for the university as they progress through their career.  

Dr. Saitta answered some questions in our 30 second lighting round.

What do you do for fun?

I absolutely love to dance. For the past few years I have been part of an award-winning professional troupe that performs cultural dances for community events and theatrical productions. Having danced all my life, I feel like it is as necessary for me as eating or breathing.

What is your wallpaper on your phone and/or computer?

The background of my iPad features pictures of my adorable son. He was born in 2013 and has rocked my world ever since!

What is your favorite treat?

I love bubble teas! One of my favorite shops has a watermelon slush with boba that is made from fresh watermelon. You can’t really beat that on a hot Florida day.

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