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Preceptor in Molecular and Cellular Biology

Sien Verschave

Preceptor in Molecular and Cellular Biology

Research

As far as I remember, I always answered ‘Veterinarian’ when I was asked as a kid ‘What do you want to become when you grow up?’. No one was surprised when I started studying veterinary medicine after high school. I started with the dream of becoming a veterinarian in practice, but during the last two years at university I developed a serious interest in research, which made the idea of becoming a clinician pale. I chose to do a small research project for my master thesis at the parasitology department of to test whether I was really cut out to become a scientist. I began processing frozen feces samples of monkeys in the search for parasites. The idea that I might spot a parasitic cyst was so fascinating to me that I would spend hours investigating these samples under the microscope.

After obtaining my degree in veterinary medicine, my interest in research led me to a doctoral research position at the same laboratory, where I obtained my Ph.D. During this period, I was part of an international research consortium concerning innovative and sustainable strategies to mitigate the impact of global change on parasite infections in ruminants. Besides my research activities at Ghent University, I was fortunate to get the opportunity of supervising and mentoring master students and being involved in different teaching activities focusing on veterinary parasitology. This is where my teaching journey began and where I was introduced to educating others in science.

After relocating from Belgium to the United States, I got the chance to further explore my new passion as a teaching fellow at Harvard University (i.e. LS1a & LS1b). I took the opportunity to fully commit to teaching and broaden my experience. At first, I was amazed by the interactive and intellectually stimulating classroom environment that was created at Harvard. Today, as a preceptor for LS1a, I am still enjoying this experience enormously as it allows me to connect with people and share my fascination about some amazing and beautiful biological concepts. When teaching LS1a specifically, there is even more that sparks my interest. I quickly realized that the course of LS1a not only forms the foundation for all subsequent study of life sciences for Harvard students, but also plants the seed to their ability of scientific thinking. Moreover, this course is a crucial first step in deciding whether they actually like science or not and whether they will ever consider pursuing a career in research. This is, in my opinion, a very powerful asset.