Harvard University - Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology

MEET THE MCB PRECEPTORS

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  Aaron Garner
Course:Life Sciences 1a (Ls1a) - An Integrated Introduction to the Life Sciences: Chemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology
Course Heads: Professor Daniel Kahne, Professor Rich Losick, Professor Rob Lue, Professor Susan Mango
Email:ragarner@fas.harvard.edu
Office Hours:By Appointment
Location:Biolabs 1090
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Personal Statement:

I attended North Carolina State University where I triple majored, earning my Bachelor’s degrees in Chemistry, Biological Sciences, and Botany. As an undergraduate I worked in the lab of Prof. Jeff Yoder, where I worked to develop tools to spatially and temporally regulate gene expression in zebrafish.

I attended graduate school in the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Harvard University beginning in 2008. I worked with Prof. Dan Kahne, and my doctoral work focused on the essential two-protein complex LptD/E that is required for the trafficking of lipopolysaccharide (LPS), an essential glycolipid found in Gram-negative bacteria, to its position in the outer membrane. The first part of my doctoral thesis focused on the elucidation of the oxidative assembly pathway by which LptD and LptE assemble into a uniquely arranged complex, and the second part involved the determination of the LptD/E x-ray crystal structure.

Together with Martin Samuels, I work as a preceptor for Life Sciences 1a. My job involves curriculum development, holding office hours, and working with the students and teaching staff to ensure that the course runs smoothly and efficiently.

My teaching philosophy has been heavily influenced by my work with Life Sciences 1a, and as such, I feel that the course and its design embody what I feel are the most important aspects of effective teaching. The primary mission of Life Sciences 1a is to get students excited about science. We emphasize big-picture concepts and new ways of thinking; we would rather our students learn to think scientifically than memorize a series of facts. We have structured our course around a clearly defined set of goals and objectives which we transparently present to the students. Each component of the course is designed to build towards these goals to create a streamlined, coherent curriculum. Lastly, Life Sciences 1a is adaptable and willing to change. We adjust and refine our course each year, as we realize that there is always room for improvement.


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  Sven Heinrich
Course:Life Sciences 1a (Ls1a) - An Integrated Introduction to the Life Sciences: Chemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology
Course Heads: Professor Daniel Kahne, Professor Rich Losick, Professor Rob Lue, Professor Susan Mango
Phone:617-495-1445
Email:sheinrich@g.harvard.edu
Office Hours:Wednesday 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm and Friday 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Location:Biolabs 1090
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  Jessica Liu
Course:MCB 63 – Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine
Course Heads: Professor Rachelle Gaudet, Senior Lecturer Alain Viel
MCB 64 – The Cell Biology of Human Life in the World
Course Head: Professor Rob Lue
Phone:617-384-9468
Email:liu9@fas.harvard.edu
Office Hours:Tuesday 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Location:Biolabs 1082D (enter through BL 1090)
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  Laura Magnotti
Advisor: Neurobiology Concentration
Course:MCB 170 - Brain Invaders: Building and Breaking Barriers in the Nervous System
Course Head: Laura Magnotti
Phone:617-496-2432
Email:magnotti@fas.harvard.edu
Office Hours:By Appointment
Location:Biolabs 1082C
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Personal Statement:

I have an undergraduate degree in Biological Basis of Behavior and History and Sociology of Science from the University of Pennsylvania. I then came to Harvard to complete a PhD in Neurobiology and never left. As a graduate student, I studied gap junctional intercellular communication between oligodendrocytes and astrocytes and its role in the formation and maintenance of myelin. Since then, I've switched gears, and I'm now working with a novel source of adult neural stem cells and trying to understand their differentiation potential and investigate possible therapeutic applications.

My job as preceptor is quite a bit different than most other preceptors, which illustrates the flexibility of the position. Instead of being part of a large lecture course, my primary responsibility is to serve as one of the two academic advisors for undergraduate students who are concentrating in Neurobiology. I think that just illustrates the flexibility of the preceptor position. The way I see it, preceptors have a passion for teaching and try to bring new energy and new ideas to the classroom in whatever capacity they're needed.

One appealing aspect of becoming a preceptor was that the title sounds like a part of the Harry Potter universe. Other than that, I was really excited by the idea of working directly with undergraduates on a daily basis. As a preceptor, the bulk of my time is spent as an academic advisor for the ~230 undergraduate Neurobiology concentrators here at Harvard. It's a really fantastic experience to watch these students as they work towards their goals and accomplish some amazing things along the way. I'm just happy that they let me along for the ride!

I have also designed and taught two courses of my own. The first was a Neurobiology tutorial (Neurobio 95hfp) called Designer Neurons: How Cell Types are Generated in the Nervous System and the Laboratory. The main goal of this course was to teach the students how to read and analyze primary literature. To accomplish this, we explored the current state of knowledge about the role of stem cells in nervous system development as well as how we can use that knowledge in the lab for therapeutic purposes. This year, I will be teaching a new course (MCB 170) called Brain Invaders: Building and Breaking Barriers in the Nervous System. In this course, the students will learn about the defense systems that the nervous system has in place to keep out invaders, ways in which various pathogens have evolved to breach those defenses, and how we can translate those mechanisms to the lab."

Outside of the classroom/lab, you can usually find me at the pottery studio, paddling on a dragon boat, or traveling around the world. I also enjoy outdoor activities (hiking, camping, etc.), reading, baking, and cheese making. The rest of my time is spent trying to survive as a Yankee fan in the middle of Red Sox territory.


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  Dominic Mao
Course:MCB 60 - Cellular Biology and Molecular Medicine
Course Heads: Professor Vlad Denic, Professor Alexander F Schier
MCB 68 – Cell Biology Through the Microscope
Course Heads: Professor Ethan Garner, Professor Jeff Lichtman
Phone:617-384-8401
Email:dominicmao@fas.harvard.edu
Office Hours:By Appointment
Location:Northwest Building, B 135.20
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Personal Statement:

During my PhD in the lab of Dennis Grogan at the University of Cincinnati, I studied how a microbial species living in acidic hot springs, like those found in Yellowstone national park, successfully maintains its genetic information in spite of living in conditions that promote DNA damage (optimal growth conditions of pH 3 and 80 degrees Celsius). To make matters more interesting, these organisms are missing important components of some DNA repair systems; failure of these repair systems in humans can lead to disastrous outcomes, like cancer. For my postdoctoral work, I joined the lab of Prof. Matthew Meselson to test the free radical theory of aging by exploiting the extreme resistance of bdelloid rotifers (aquatic, microscopic invertebrates) to ionizing radiation.
I taught undergraduates during the entirety of my five years in graduate school, where I realized that I want to pursue a career in teaching. I am fortunate that both my PhD and postdoc mentors emphasized on teaching as an integral part of my scientific training. In my role as preceptor, I am eager to explore research-based teaching methods, with help from the Bok Center, to constantly improve student learning. I am particularly excited about being the preceptor for MCB 60. I am confident the students will enjoy the course content, in-class discussions and the discovery-based labs. It is definitely a course I would have loved to take and benefited from as an undergraduate.


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  Casey Roehrig
Course:Life and Physical Sciences A (LPS A) - Foundational Chemistry and Biology
Course Heads: Professor Tamara Brenner, Professor Gregory Tucci
Life Sciences 1b (Ls1b) - An Integrated Introduction to the Life Sciences: Genetics, Genomics, and Evolution
Course Heads: Professor Andrew Berry, Professor Kevin Eggan, Professor Pardis Sabeti
Phone:617-384-7925
Email:croehrig@g.harvard.edu
Office Hours:Mondays 10:00 am-11:30 am
Wednesdays 12:30pm -2:00pm
Location:Science Center 412
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Personal Statement:

I attended New York University, where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. While there, I first became interested in developmental biology while working in the lab of Dr. Philip Benfey studying the regulation of cell growth in the roots of Arabidopsis thaliana. I then worked in the lab of Dr. Fabio Piano, studying early embryonic development in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and related species.

I entered the Harvard MCB department’s graduate program in 2004, and joined Dr. Craig Hunter's lab to study the development of C. elegans. My graduate work looked at the establishment and maintenance of cell fates during embryogenesis. Throughout my graduate career, I enjoyed teaching, and was involved in courses in Harvard College, the Extension School, and also with the MCB Outreach program. I enjoyed getting to work with a variety of different students as they explored their developing interest in the life sciences and encountered new ideas and experiences.

My enjoyment of teaching led me to the LS1b Preceptor position after I graduated, as its focus on genetics, genomics, and evolution mirrors my own background and interests. I enjoy developing new labs and activities that reinforce the core concepts during the discussion sections. For the past three years, I have also worked on similar projects with LPS A, which teaches the fundamentals of biology and chemistry to introductory students.

As a preceptor, I spend much of my time planning the weekly sections for LPS A and LS1b. This includes troubleshooting and refining the labs (or sometimes developing new ones), and writing problems and activities to help students learn the material. When students actively engage with the material, they are more excited to learn and also learn it better, so I try to include as many interactive and student-centered learning experiences as possible. The most rewarding part of my job, though, is working with students – I run weekly reviews for the biology portion of LPS A and for LS1b, helping students learn to apply the concepts that they hear about in lecture to different types of problems and scientific questions. I also enjoy holding office hours, which give me an opportunity to work one-on-one or with small groups of students at a time.