“Becoming a teaching assistant was an aspect of graduate school that I most looked forward to when I started the PhD program in Pharmaceutical Sciences,” says Zoë Folchman-Wagner, who is now in her second year as a doctoral student.
Folchman-Wagner spent her last year working as a TA for Dr. Ian Haworth in some of his introductory PharmD courses, where she was able to actively engage with the students.
“In the Spring semester, I created a case study for students and led discussion sessions where we examined their progress in the case study, and addressed any problems or questions they had pertaining to the study or the class itself,” says Folchman-Wagner. “This experience reinforced my interest in an academic career after completion of my PhD.”
Folchman-Wagner – whose research focuses on the formulation, characterization, and application of self-assembling pH sensitive polyamino-acid nanoparticles for targeting of the slightly acidic tumor microenvironment – has long had a passion for teaching.
“I had previous experience tutoring students at the undergraduate level in chemistry, and working as a volunteer with remedial math students in a local elementary school,” she says. “Working with more experienced PharmD students fascinates me, because they already understand the fundamentals of scientific theory and practice. My TA-ship has been an opportunity to continue to focus and hone my teaching skills.”
Wagner will now have the opportunity to hone these skills even further. She has recently been selected to be a Teaching Assistant Fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching for the 2014-2015 year. Only 15 students are selected each year to take part in the fellowship. According to the CET, TA Fellows collaborate to combine their personal teaching expertise with research on best practices and then deliver it to all.
“The CET TA Fellow program will further my goal of a career in academia,” says Folchman-Wagner. “It will allow me to expand and improve upon my skills in the classroom. I particularly look forward to the opportunity to speak with TAs outside of my field of study, as I think they will have different experiences and will offer unique perspectives that will be very useful in my work as a TA.”
The invaluable experience Folchman-Wagner will attain through her new fellowship will no doubt help her to achieve her career goal of teaching while conducting research at either the undergraduate or graduate level.
“Ultimately, this is what I want to do with my career,” she says. “I love seeing the moment when everything comes together for a student, where the pieces fall into place and they understand something that they didn’t before. I love watching the confidence of the students grow as they explain difficult ideas to their peers. I hope to continue to be the best teaching assistant that I can, and I think that the CET TA fellowship will be instrumental in helping me to achieve this goal.”