May 18, 2004
Scientists are Teachers Too
Postdoctoral fellows in science work in the labs of research scientists. Then they begin their own careers as junior faculty members, and suddenly, they are expected to teach undergraduates, a very different job than the one for which they were so highly trained.
That's about to change for four postdocs in neuroscience and bioinformatics at the City University of New York Queens College. Using part of a new science education grant from Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), CUNY Queens College is establishing four two-year research-teaching fellowships.
Each fellow will have two mentors, one for teaching and another for research. The teaching mentor will help them develop their teaching skills, and they will have the opportunity to practice by presenting several critiqued lectures and preparing syllabi for courses. In the second year of their fellowship, they will develop and teach new laboratory courses. They will also be part of a wider community of postdocs participating in an existing program to prepare future faculty, funded by the American Chemical Society.
At the same time, the postdocs will work in the labs of their research mentors, who must agree in advance that the fellows will devote half their time to teaching.
“This dual development track will make these fellows ideal faculty candidates who will be well prepared to teach and mentor undergraduates as they embark on their careers as junior faculty members," says Peter Bruns, HHMI Vice President for Grants and Special Programs. “The program will integrate the fellows' research and teaching experiences to such an extent that it could become a national model."
In its grants to universities as well as to baccalaureate and master's institutions, HHMI supports initiatives to provide scientific postdoctoral fellows with training and experience in teaching in addition to research.