Chemistry: The Language of Atoms – CUTF introduction : Shourya Mukherjee

Hello! My name is Shourya Mukherjee and I am a junior at Pitt pursuing a Molecular Biology with a specialization in Biochemistry for my major in addition to chemistry and music minors. A fun fact about me is I love playing different musical instruments; I primarily play the piano and trombone but have been learning the ukulele and African drumming through the African drumming ensemble at Pitt! One of my main interests is emergency medicine and trauma; my career goals revolve around this interest. I would like to pursue an MD or PhD in this field as I have a large interest in heart failure which are some of the most common cases, we see in the Emergency Department. In my opinion, regardless of whether I pursue an MD or PhD I believe that both these will require me to be able to communicate with fellow colleagues and students as well and hence, the experience I am gaining this semester is helping better shape my skillset for my future career. 

This semester, I am working alongside Dr. Peter Bell in the Chemistry Department for the fourth semester as a TA for his general chemistry 2 classes. Each of Dr. Bell’s classes have an average of around 250 students hence my CUTF project is based around a teaching model where I will be incorporating 3 main techniques to make the class more interactive and easier to follow for all the participants despite it being taught remotely. Firstly, I will be attending the lectures as a TA and I will moderate the Zoom chat. By doing so whenever there are any confusions or discrepancies, I can bring this to Dr. Bell’s attention either during lecture or during our weekly TA meetings. This allows for the students to ask me questions instead which should encourage them to ask a peer as its less intimidating than asking a professor directly. I have also been added to the classes’ shared canvas page for both sections allowing me to directly answer and questions students may have through the use of the discussion board.

Another method I will be incorporating this semester is creating worksheets for the students each week. These worksheets will tend to summarize concepts that are being taught in the week and will be aimed at providing the students with exam level practice questions to allow the students to better understand how prepared they are for midterms. I have been creating questions over the past 3 semesters and have somewhat a question bank which I currently choose from for each worksheet and topic that has been covered in the class. During the session the students and I work through each question and I try to get as many to participate to help explain each step of the problem to arrive at the solution in leu of me giving them the answer directly. During these sessions I also try to help students with their homework or any other questions they may have regarding the material. 

Lastly, I will be working with Dr. Bell to coordinate with these other TA’s and primarily lead the TA meetings. During these meetings I will be giving the other TA’s a brief overview of what was covered in lectures during the week. Before each TA meeting, the other students and I will have questions put together in a google document where we will omit the answers and work through these questions amongst ourselves during the TA session. This will allow all TA’s to understand how to answer the questions on the worksheet and also gives them the opportunity to ask any questions they may have. 

I hope that the students in the general chemistry 2 class will take advantage of these resources we are setting up for them allowing them to perform better overall as a class.  Dr. Bell always encourages his students to give feedback as the semester progresses so he can make changes and make the course more responsive to the students.  I would like to do the same, and if anyone has suggestions for how I could help him make the undergraduate TAs more helpful this term based on their experiences in other classes, I would really appreciate a comment on this post or an email at ssm58@pitt.edu

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