The past few months have been a lot of fun working with Professor Hong to develop these lab projects. I have enjoyed relooking at the assignments I grappled with last year and searching for ways to improve them. One of the reasons I was a great fit for this project was because I had firsthand experience with the lab assignments I was designing and restructuring. This is actually how I was introduced to this program and project.
About a week after I took the final exam for PHYS 0476 in spring of 2020, Professor Hong sent out an email asking if any of the students would be interested in being a UTA for the spring 2021 class and possibly taking it a step further with the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship. I jumped at this opportunity and agreed to help Professor Hong redesign the lab assignments that I had used over the last 4 months to help solidify my understanding of the course’s subjects.
This project was more or less handed to me, but many classes have similar issues. It is difficult to see many issues with assignments from a teacher’s perspective because students aren’t in the mind of the professor. Sometimes they need additional guidance for certain parts of a lab or any other type of assignment. This type of CUTF project could certainly be reproduced for a number of other classes at the University of Pittsburgh because a student perspective is extremely valuable in creating a better learning experience for future classes.
Since I have moved to the other side of the classroom, I have learned a lot about teaching and teacher/student dynamics. It was extremely difficult at first trying to maintain a peer relationship with Professor Hong because he was originally my professor. I was very nervous at first about working with someone who clearly did, and still does, know more about physics than it seems like I may ever know; however, Professor Hong was extremely welcoming and patient with me as I learned about developing problems and descriptions for the lab assignments. He has been very accommodating, friendly, and helpful throughout this process.
For any student who is interested in a similar experience to learn about teaching and working at an academic level, I would highly recommend becoming an undergraduate teaching assistant. Even if it isn’t through the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship, being an undergraduate teaching assistant is an extremely rewarding experience. Helping students to enjoy and learn in a class that I enjoyed so much last year is an extremely satisfying feeling. I cannot stress that this is one of my best experiences since coming to the University of Pittsburgh.
This is a screenshot from a review session I co-hosted for the first midterm exam. Other participants and co-hosts have been blacked out for privacy purposes
This is a question I personally developed for the review session in the previous image. This question was meant to review the concepts of Ohm’s Law, polar coordinates, and variable charge density.