If you are a CIRTL Alumni and have moved on to a new position, please fill out this google form so we can highlight your achievements!

CIRTL Scholars

The following individuals have completed all levels of engagement in the CIRTL@UCLA Program and have achieved the highest level of engagement- CIRTL Scholar Status.

Benjamin Hà
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
2019

Project Title: “Students use drawing activities as a study tool, but what do they draw from them academically?”
Teaching-As-Research (TAR) Presentation: October 2019 CIRTL Forum Meeting and November 22, 2019, CEILS Journal Club.

Benjamin is an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and a PhD student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the Jacobs Lab. He has been heavily involved in diversity and community outreach, particularly with undergraduates who identify as first-generation, low-income, and/or underrepresented minorities in higher education. Before graduate school, he worked full-time as a Program Representative at UCLA’s Undergraduate Research Center in the Sciences, which aims to increase diversity in the biomedical sciences. During graduate school, he served as the STEM Graduate Mentor at the Academic Advancement Program, which aids similar disadvantaged undergraduate populations. His general research interests are understanding how anthropogenic activities impact marine communities and populations, and how research may be applied toward marine conservation and policy. He is also interested in the effectiveness of teaching strategies that can improve the academic performance of minority undergraduates in STEM higher education. Benjamin identifies as a first-generation undergraduate, first-generation and first in his family to pursue a graduate degree, queer Vietnamese/Vietnamese-American, and a non-traditional graduate student. Benjamin is also a strong advocate for dancing and dark chocolate.

Kaitlin Ingraham Dixie
Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology
2018-2019

Project Title: “Practice Makes Perfect?: The Merits of a Restructured Course for New Graduate Student Teaching Assistants”
Teaching-As-Research (TAR) Presentation: February 1, 2019, CEILS Journal Cub.

Katie got her PhD in the Molecular, Cellular, and Integrative Physiology program where she was dedicated to help improve both undergraduate and graduate education in the Integrative Biology and Physiology department. As a TA she helped implement changes to allow for more active learning into her courses, and then became the teaching assistant consultant/student instructor for her department’s graduate student TA training course. Inspired by her own experience and those of her peers, she implemented several changes to this class in order to better prepare and encourage new TAs to use more evidence-based practices in their discussion sections. Wanting to assess whether the changes she made were benefiting the TAs or not led her to CIRTL and was the focus of her Teaching As Research project. Outside of lab and class time, Katie enjoys hiking and traveling (or at least as often as possible on a graduate student budget) and, of course, spending time with her wife, family, friends, and cats.

Elizabeth Mills
Department of Physics and Astronomy
2018-2019

Project Title: “Mixed Methods Assessments of Introductory Physics for Life Sciences”
Teaching-As-Research (TAR) Presentation: November 30, 2018, CEILS Journal Cub.

Elizabeth is a PhD candidate in the department of Physics and Astronomy at UCLA, and 2017-2018 recipient of the Charles E. and Sue K. Young Graduate Student Fellowship award. From 2015-2017, she spearheaded her department’s 2017 hosting of the APS Conferences for Women in Physics, and from 2017-2018 helped design and implement UCLA’s Physics for Life Sciences (5 series) laboratory revisions. She currently researches neurophysics in the laboratory of Professor Katsushi Arisaka, investigating correlations between EEG neural activity and human behavior. She continues to support UCLA’s Physics 5 series labs as the learning assistant instructor, teaching assistant coordinator, and student surveys administrator. In her free time, she enjoys playing soccer, practicing yoga, and bodysurfing.

Helen Vuong
Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology

2017-2018

Project Title: “Adapting Experiential Learning Activities to Enhance Neuroscience Education”
Teaching-As-Research (TAR) Presentation: The 2018 Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards (IRACDA) conference.

Upper division human physiology courses are structured to include numerous topics, typically require memorization of seemingly disparate concepts, and lacks application to a student’s experiences. Previous studies have demonstrated efficacy of experiential learning, such as lab and inquiry-based learning in improving a student’s performance in STEM courses. Through the use of experiential learning activities, I aimed to clarify and connect previous general physiology functions to neuroscience-specific topics. To determine whether experiential learning activities can improve student performance and understanding of neuroscience concepts I used pre- and post-quiz assessments at the beginning and end of each class, respectively. In particular, the quizzes contained questions that employed several levels of Bloom’s taxonomy. Students improved from pre-quiz to post-quiz, but there was no improvement in questions that utilized higher Bloom’s taxonomy. Furthermore, there is evidence that experiential learning activities did help to clarify neuroscience concepts. Together, these results suggest experiential learning activities is useful for neuroscience-specific topics and can be further refined to engage students in higher Bloom’s thinking.

Helen received her PhD from UCLA in 2015. She is a recipient of the Jules Stein Eye NIH Predoctoral Fellowship and Jules Stein Eye Institute Research Excellence Award. She is currently an NIH-NIGMS IRACDA fellow in the Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology. In the lab of Dr. Elaine Hsiao, she is studying the influence of the maternal microbiome on fetal neurodevelopment and offspring sensory behavior. In her free time, she enjoys hiking national parks and cooking.

Alumni Highlights

CIRTL Scholars

Elizabeth Reid-Wainscoat
Research and Policy Analyst for the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge (SLA GC)

Project Title: “Impact of Group Composition on Performance and Student Experience in a STEM Lab Course?”
Teaching-As-Research (TAR) Presentation: May 2018, CEILS Journal Club

The CIRTL learning community that CEILS organized for post doctorates and graduate students was the first introduction I had to evidence based teaching practices and it really was instrumental in shaping my perspective and approaches as an instructor. I was really excited to find like minded people who were dedicated to improving the educational experience of students on campus, especially at an R1 university where too often students are encouraged to compete with one another rather than cooperatively learn. As a student that attended an R1 university for my undergraduate degree, I know the pressure these students are under to perform, but the emphasis always felt wrong. Acing the test is very different from comprehending and retaining the main concepts, however exams often only ask students to perform basic information recall rather than application of concepts. I wish every instructor was given the opportunity to take this training and get one-on-one advice from a CEILS staff member because just that simple shift in course goals from test performance to retention of knowledge makes a huge difference in how you approach instruction and how you encourage your students to learn.

Elizabeth Reid-Wainscoat is the Research and Policy Analyst for the Sustainable LA Grand Challenge (SLA GC). Her primary role at SLA GC is managing the Ecosystem Health Report Card. In addition, she helps identify research priorities that support SLA GC’s goals and provides policy recommendations for the city and county of Los Angeles related to their sustainability plans. She also assists with the Undergraduate Student Scholars Program through project mentorship and course assessments that can help improve the student experience. Previously, Elizabeth worked for three years as a biologist for the San Diego Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research helping to restore populations of endangered species including the Pacific pocket mouse, Western burrowing owl and the Tasmanian devil. Elizabeth received a B.S. in Environmental Systems from the University of California, San Diego in 2013 and a M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2018.

Sunny Chang
Instructor of Chemistry in the Dept of Chemistry, Southern Illinois University
Edwardsville, Illinois

“The training through CIRTL helped me to understand which evidence-based practices in the classroom are most important to me and how to articulate that in interviews. Schools were interested in my experiences with active learning and that I had tried Teaching-as-Research in the classroom.”

Nancy Day

Jenny Link
Visiting Professor in Biology
Whittier College, California

“CIRTL opened my eyes to an entire field of evidence-based pedagogy, allowing me to be a better instructor. I learned how to talk about specific teaching strategies that I could implement in my upcoming courses, and I am excited to continue teaching-as-research this school year.”

Jenny Link is a postdoctoral fellow in UCLA Postdocs Longitudinal Investment in Faculty Training (UPLIFT) program. In addition to a traditional postdoc experience, UPLIFT fellows receive pedagogical training at UCLA and put their training into practice at our partner institution Cal State Los Angeles. Jenny works in the laboratory of Dr. Elizabeth Tarling and Dr. Thomas Vallim, investigating the effects of novel genes involved in bile acid and cholesterol metabolism. In Fall 2017, she taught a lower division evolution, biodiversity, and ecology course with Dr. Paul Narguizian and conducted her teaching-as-research project, which is the focus of this CEILS journal club. Upon completion of this presentation, she will become a CIRTL Scholar.

CIRTL Practitioners

Matthieu Delcourt
Professor of Microbiology and Molecular Biology, University of Ottawa
Ottawa, Canada

“I am confident that my experience with the UCLA/CEILS/CIRTL sponsored MOOCs, learning communities, and journal clubs were critical in my attainment of this position. The knowledge and skills that I learned during these courses were truly eye opening and were heavily utilized during my interview teaching demonstration. They also helped me address some questions during the Q & A! The experiences in these teaching courses were indeed valuable and I plan to apply what I learned throughout my teaching career. Additionally, as a future teacher at a leading Hispanic-serving institute, the knowledge and tools I pick up at UCLA for working with underrepresented populations, utilizing diversity, and improving inclusivity, will be particularly useful.”

Stephen P. Hancock, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Chemistry
Towson University

“I am confident that my experience with the UCLA/CEILS/CIRTL sponsored MOOCs, learning communities, and journal clubs were critical in my attainment of this position. The knowledge and skills that I learned during these courses were truly eye opening and were heavily utilized during my interview teaching demonstration. They also helped me address some questions during the Q & A! The experiences in these teaching courses were indeed valuable and I plan to apply what I learned throughout my teaching career. Additionally, as a future teacher at a leading Hispanic-serving institute, the knowledge and tools I pick up at UCLA for working with underrepresented populations, utilizing diversity, and improving inclusivity, will be particularly useful.”

Ian Mendez, PhD
Assistant Professor, Pharmacy Practice & Clinical Sciences (PP&CS)
The University of Texas at El Paso

“I am writing to let you know that I have attained a new position as tenure-track Assistant Professor at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Texas in El Paso. I am confident that my experience with the UCLA/CEILS/CIRTL learning communities, and journal clubs were critical in my attainment of this position. The knowledge and skills that I learned during these courses were truly eye opening and were heavily utilized during my interview teaching demonstration. They also helped me address some questions during the Q & A! The experiences in these teaching courses were indeed valuable and I plan to apply what I learned throughout my teaching career. Additionally, as a future teacher at a leading Hispanic-serving institute, the knowledge and tools I pick up at UCLA for working with underrepresented populations, utilizing diversity, and improving inclusivity, will be particularly useful. I was so impressed with the commitment to excellence in teaching, that I plan to implement similar programs at my new institution.”

Frances K. Mercer, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

CIRTL Associates

Xinnan Du

Xinnan is managing the UC Riverside NASA FIELDS program, which provides formal education/research opportunities for students/scholar ranging from high school to postdoc levels.

Shuwa Xu

Shuwa has gone on to be a post-doc at Cal Tech and is planning on continuing to teach and implement her TAR project.

“The CIRTL experience in UCLA was very helpful for me to learn how to teach. I truly appreciate the opportunity for a postdoc to participate in teaching research and obtain teaching experiences. Thank you!”