Teaching Statement

I believe teaching is a central part of my development as an academic. I have been fortunate enough to have a wide variety of teaching experiences as a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Boston (UMB) and as a Senior Research Associate at ATREE (atree.org) in India.

At UMB I taught the laboratory sections for the undergraduate courses- General Biology I and General Biology II, mandatory courses for pre-medical students Biology majors. These are integrated courses stressing the principles of biology. I had the rewarding experience of introducing undergraduate students to the concepts of the scientific process and the notion of critical thinking. In General Biology I introduced broad concepts of genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology to examine life processes at the molecular and cellular level. In General Biology II, I taught biological form, function, and processes primarily at the organismal and population levels. I introduced the class to the concepts of evolutionary processes and natural selection, community ecology, population biology, and biodiversity and conservation.

I have also advised graduate students with their research, helping them narrow down on suitable research questions and publications. As a Senior Research Associate in India, I have held training workshops on Participatory Rural Appraisal techniques for master’s and early Ph.D. students at the Sikkim University and workshops on disaster risk reduction and climate change that facilitated an exchange of ideas and information between district administrators and local communities. For the past four years, I have conducted guest lectures at Madeira Elementary School, Ohio for 2nd graders and faculty on “Introduction to climate change and what can we do!!”. I have been mentored by Dr. Bawa, the leading scientist in the field of conservation biology and author of the textbook Conservation Biology: A Primer for South Asia. In addition to this, I have worked on different interdisciplinary questions on conservation biology. This makes me uniquely qualified to teach courses on conservation biology, global environmental change, coupled human and natural systems, and political ecology. The courses will have a holistic approach covering concepts from both natural sciences and social sciences, a reading list covering current and relevant research, and projects using statistical tools based on R coding for methods from different disciplines. I have coauthored two papers in plant evolutionary ecology and could teach courses in plant ecology and evolution.

In this COVID era with in-person classes restricted I have been using collaborative tools such as Zoom, Blackboard collaborate, and Google Suite including Jamboard, for both synchronous and asynchronous learning.

A pedagogic philosophy such as mine demands that I create an environment that is inclusive and conducive to learning. This allows students to engage themselves in a discipline and assimilate the required concepts, information, and skills encouraging them to develop a further interest in the subject. I facilitate this by using relatable and interesting case studies. For example, in the community ecology section of my classes, I often start by asking “Is the crunchy part of dried figs seeds or wasp eggs”. This often facilitates discussions among students on the relationship between different trophic groups and community dynamics besides igniting inquisitiveness and providing a challenging yet supportive environment. Excellent evaluations by my students have been inspiring and reflect my knowledge of the subject, motivational attitude, and effectiveness of teaching.

I often use a mix of different approaches. The flipped classroom technique that requires students to prepare lessons before the class, proves to be useful for topics where basic concepts have already been covered. I often start such sections with quizzes incentivizing students to prepare and revise before class. Often the design thinking technique that facilitates brainstorming, group discussions and analysis, and innovation allows for engaging dialogue between teacher and students as well as among students. While designing exams I try to use pragmatic real-world examples that the students may relate to and pay special attention to providing quality feedback on exams and assignments. I also use numerous digital tools that are freely accessible such as google drive’s- docs, sheets and slides, and various social media to foster a collective effort among the students, promote inquiry-based learning and make learning as accessible and as student-friendly as possible.

Given my experience in academia, environmental think tanks, and Non-governmental organizations I offer real-world experience complementing my teaching experience that I believe is vital to education.