We're a little crazy, about science!

Summer teaching

It’s that time of the year again! We’re taking on undergrad and high school students for the summer research program! An exciting chance for people to get their hands dirty and learn what it’s like to work in a lab. The best part is that most of the people attending are paid! That’s right, undergrads are paid to be there. That also means I get to put on my teacher hat, which I absolutely love. Today we’re going to talk about what I’m teaching and I’ll probably spend a bit of time talking about how much I enjoy teaching, let’s go!

Doing a PhD is work, but not just because you’re doing research, but because there are so many other responsibilities that come along with it. Mentoring, teaching, outreach, lab tours, writing, okay that last one is technically part of the research I guess, but it doesn’t always feel that way. The point being there’s a lot of responsibilities and 90% of what you do in your PhD is only semi-related to the research you do for your degree. It’s not all bad, I enjoy being a mentor and I enjoy teaching. With the end of the term, I get to do both, but this year I’m only teaching since I’ve already got a few full time mentees that I’m working with.

I take mentoring very seriously because it’s a huge responsibility, you’re literally helping someone get their degree and plan their life. So I try to meet with my mentees once a week, sometimes every other week. Since I enjoy doing it I don’t mind and I like to think I’m pretty good at it since I have a small handful of undergrad students I’ve been mentoring for more than a year now. I’ll be with them until they graduate and in some cases even after, so it’s fun to watch them progress (like this!).

Since I am at my quota for mentoring, even my main-PI said that I shouldn’t take on any new students over the summer, I was thankful and agreed that it wouldn’t benefit them if I had to split my time so much. Summer mentoring takes even more work because they are only there for a short time. You basically spend all summer working with them daily, normally the projects they do help you progress with your degree, so it’s mutually beneficial, but that would take away from my long-term mentoring duties and since I don’t really need assistance with anything at the moment I was given a pass. I will be making up for it when I teach this year though!

Last year I taught several seminars and a 10 week solid modeling class (free for all to learn using these posts if you’ve ever been interested). One seminar was on 3D printing and the other was three lectures on solid modeling, so an incredibly commenced version of what I was teaching to my much smaller 10 week class. This year is going to be slightly different and not quite as much effort, at least I don’t think it will be. I don’t believe anyone else is going to be needing a solid modeling class, the 10 week course was specifically for my mentees, but I offered it to anyone else who wanted to learn.

No, this year I will be teaching a few new things and just like last year I plan on making them available to everyone here! I may even need to make a special category for summer classes to make them easy to find since I’ll be doing this every year. This year I’m teaching the shorted solid modeling class, an intro to 3D printing course, and (the important one) independent component analysis (or ICA for short). I’ve talked about ICA (here) before, so it’s not something that I’m new to doing, it will be good to teach and my main-PI specifically requested that I teach the course since I’ve spent the past few months working so heavily with the technique.

Overall it will be interesting and not as much work as it was last year, which will benefit me and my students. It means I can spend more time doing other things and (dare I say it?) have a chance to take a break finally! The best part about all this, we’re doing it virtually! That’s right, even though the CDC guidelines changed, there are several people who are out of state and don’t feel comfortable traveling, so we’re doing this virtually again. That’s good news for me and good news for the students since I’m not certain everyone is vaccinated anyway and the mask requirements have been forcibly dropped (the local government is trying to kill us).

I’m excited, I enjoy teaching and I think it will be interesting teaching a new topic this time around. Normally I’m on engineering design stuff, since that’s where my BS and MS was focused. It just means I’ve learned some stuff now in my third year. It’s a nice reminder of the progress I’ve made!


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