Laura MacDonald knew from an early age that she wanted to be an educator—as a kid, she used to line up her stuffed animals and teach them. But it wasn’t until her first year of graduate school in microbiology that she knew she wanted to focus her career on teaching at the undergraduate level. Laura graduated from Hendrix College in 2009 with a B.A. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and went on to complete her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 2014. There weren’t many opportunities to teach at the University of Arkansas, so she reached out to her network at Hendrix and was able to guest lecture there during her graduate studies. She also started the Graduate Student Teachers of Central Arkansas group for like-minded students. As soon as she completed her Ph.D., she was hired to teach as an adjunct professor at Hendrix while also holding postdoc positions working on platelet research and cancer biology.
How critical is a postdoc if I want to teach at a primarily undergraduate or 2-year institution?
To bring a broad perspective to the issue, Microbe Mentor editor Thomas Hanson asked three microbiologists at different career stages and types of institutions for their thoughts. Dr. Amy Cheng Vollmer is a Professor of Biology at Swarthmore College, Dr. Virginia Balke is an Instructor and Project Director at Delaware Technical Community College (DTCC), and Dr. Carie Frantz is an Assistant Professor of Geochemistry and Biogeoscience at Weber State University.
Dr. Vollmer’s research focuses on the stress response in Escherichia coli, and is moving towards microbiome characterization. She is the sole microbiologist in a Biology Department, where she has served twice as Department Chair. Research experience for students is an important part of the curriculum at Swarthmore and Dr. Vollmer has hosted over 70 students in her lab to date. She has previously written about her job in the August 2000 ASM News (66:459-462).
Loretta Brancaccio-Taras presents a webinar on teaching philosophy statements; she defines them and identifes elements that should be included in them.
Erin Dolan discusses evidence-based undergraduate science education in the College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. Erin is Executive Director of the Texas Institute for Discovery Education in Science (TIDES), which aims to catalyze, support, and showcase innovative, evidence-based education. Download the Cultures article to learn more about TIDES and evidence-based teaching.