Four MCB community members—Julien Barrere, Xiaomeng Han, Neha Karlupia, and Catherine Weiner—have been honored with teaching certificates from the Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. Awarded to only a handful of teaching fellows, these certificates celebrate excellence in teaching.
To learn more about these outstanding instructors, read on!
Julien Barrere (Ph.D. ‘22) has taught several life sciences courses, including LS1a. “I then taught OEB53, which is a much smaller class about evolutionary biology,” Barrere says. “Taught by Andrew Berry, this course is a conceptual overview of evolution where students really engage in reading and discussing books and papers that built the field of evolutionary biology. I actually ended up teaching this class for 3 semesters. In the meantime, I wanted to teach something with a radically different format, so I asked Alain Viel to teach one of his classes, LS100. This class is fully project-based, where each TF gets to develop a small research project with a group of students.”
The most recent course Barrere has taught is LS1b, the complementary course to LS1a.
Barrere adds that there are many reasons why he teaches, saying, “It’s like having a side project during your PhD but this one is less likely to fail and more rewarding. It is very satisfying when you get to explain a concept to a student and they are blown away because they finally understand.” These moments do not happen often, he says, but when they do, it’s a highlight of his week.
During her Ph.D., Han was a teaching fellow for Lichtman’s course MCB/Neuro 80, an introductory neurobiology course for undergraduates. “I was also a Media and Design Fellow at the Learning Lab at the Bok Center,” Han says. “I made graphic abstracts, comic strips, and videos for MCB/Neuro 80.” Her work for the course was featured on the Bok Center website.
“For me, teaching means letting my students discover their talents and helping them use their talents to achieve their long-term goals,” Han says. “Seeing my students thrive in the pursuit of their life goals gives me great joy. I also enjoy the fact that I’m constantly learning from my students.”
“The Bok Center Teaching Certificate is an acknowledgment of all the efforts I made on improving my teaching skills in the past few years,” she adds. “It also signals a new start that I’m going to use my teaching skills to help more students. I plan to take up teaching responsibility as a postdoc. The person I’d like to thank is my advisor Jeff. Without Jeff’s encouragement, I would have never discovered the joy of teaching.”
Postdoc Neha Karlupia of the Lichtman Lab has taught MCB 80 / Neuro 80: Neurobiology of Behavior for the past four years and will teach it again in the fall. Karlupia was awarded a Certificate of Teaching Distinction-2021 for teaching Neuro 80 by the Office of Undergraduate Education. The introductory course covers the types of cells in the brain, how neural circuits are formed, how brains process information, and how experience shapes brain activity.
She has also mentored several students from MBB S-102, Becoming a Brain Scientist, a summer course that aims to introduce students to how neuroscientists and psychologists formulate hypotheses, design experiments, and collect and analyze data to learn about nervous system, brain functioning, behavior and disorders.
Karlupia is excited about receiving the Bok teaching certificate, saying, “I see Harvard BOK teaching certificate as a recognition of my continuous efforts to contribute substantially to the learning of students and evolve as an effective teacher,” she says. “I am thankful to the BOK center for being a fantastic resource for advice and discussion over the years.”
Karlupia expressed gratitude toward her parents, saying, “My mother has been an educator throughout her life and her persistent efforts to bring the best in her students has been a strong inspiration and motivation for me to contribute as a teacher.” She also thanked Prof. Lichtman, Kathleen Quast and her students.
“I believe in education and its ability to foster equality and dignity,” Karlupia adds. “Teaching thus is imperative as it gives me an opportunity to be a medium to facilitate learning, share knowledge, nurture creativity, and devise an inclusive environment for students to learn, engage, and actively participate. Teaching is a medium to initiate curiosity and motivation to learn and is a process to innovate and never stop learning. It is a way to contribute tangibly to the present that will carry forward into tomorrow.”
Catherine Weiner (Ph.D. ‘22) was a teaching fellow for LS1b (Introduction to Genetics, Genomics, and Evolution) and MCB293 (Graduate Biochemistry). She also spent several years as an ABLConnect Fellow, tasked with promoting activity-based learning online and on campus.
“I have experienced the power of having a good teacher,” Weiner says. “Someone who encourages not only your understanding of course content, but also helps you grow as a thinker, communicator, and class citizen. I hope to bring similar qualities to my own classrooms to help inspire the next generation of scientists to explore their scientific curiosity.”
She adds, “I am honored to receive a Bok Center Teaching Certificate and would like to thank several people who have helped me achieve this distinction. First, I would like to thank my undergraduate teaching mentor Dr. Elaine Sia from the University of Rochester for opening up the world of teaching for me. Then, I would like to thank Dr. Martin Samuels, the associate director for science at the time, for his guidance and support as a Bok fellow.”
Congratulations to Julien Barrere, Xiaomeng Han, Neha Karlupia, and Catherine Weiner!