An Introduction to My CUTF Journey

Hi! My name is Samir Yellapragada and I am currently a senior here at the University of Pittsburgh. I am double majoring in Anthropology and Natural Sciences while minoring in Theatre Arts, Creative Writing, and Chemistry. I am thrilled to work on my own teaching project this semester through the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship. I am working with Dr. David Ewing in the Department of Chemistry this semester as a teaching assistant for his General Chemistry 1 course. Though I have been a teaching assistant for this course in the past, this is the first time I am completely developing my own course offering through oversight from Dr. Ewing.

My project is titled “Student-to-Student Chemistry” and is a series of short videos that I create, produce, and edit. I create one fifteen-minute video per week that highlights the most important concepts from the textbook chapter discussed during the week. The series is titled “Student-to-Student Chemistry” because my goal is to incorporate the lessons I have learned taking this course (with Dr. Ewing) and “TAing” for this course throughout the years into the videos. I aim to do this by emphasizing tricky concepts I have struggled with as a student and have seen other students also struggle with. In addition, the video series is aimed to be a place where I can answer questions in general regarding the Pitt experience. The freshman experience can at times be quite overwhelming and challenging.

When I was a freshman, I was constantly inundated by opportunities, emails, new clubs, and social situations. I hope to approach this exciting time frame in many of my students’ lives with a student perspective of understanding and support. As an underclassmen, some of the best advice and guidance I had received was from my upperclassmen mentors. This is a very large reason I was attracted to becoming an Undergraduate Teaching Assistant, and I hope to preserve this component through my video series. Another important consideration for this series is the language that students tend to adopt and the lines of thinking students typically apply in conceptualizing difficult concepts. When I was a student of General Chemistry 1, my peers and my UTAs would (knowingly or unknowingly) use certain that language that made a certain concept “click” in a fascinating and unique way. My video series aims at fostering an environment where such “Eurkea!” moments can occur frequently. Moreover, by offering myself as a source of general support and mentorship, I hope to connect many first year students to the wide array of opportunities available to students here at Pitt.

I hope to apply to medical school in the future and have realized that clear, empathetic communication is vital to a successful career as a physician. Through this project, I hope to strengthen my skills as an effective communicator, teacher, and mentor.

Here is a picture of me making dark chocolate from rainforest Cacao beans

Something unique about myself is that I studied abroad in the Amazon rainforest last summer! It was an incredibly cool experience that involved jungle hikes, tubing, and seeing various animals in their natural habitat. Our group stayed in a lodge located in the Ecuadorian Amazon where we took classes in tropical rainforest ecology as well as in Amazonian religious practices. It was an unforgettable experience that I will cherish for years to come.

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