In many ways, the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Teaching Fellowship has provided me with a unique avenue to engage with the academic community here at Pitt. Bridging the relationship between professor and student, the fellowship has allowed me to directly contribute to how a course is taught at Pitt. Translating my experience as a student to a teaching assistant, the CUTF has so far allowed me to add my own flavor to a complex course like Organic Chemistry 2. However, getting to this point was not as straightforward. Having taken the course in the fall, I knew that I wanted to share the tricks and strategies that I found essential to my success with others.
My journey began with a meeting with Dr. Powell where we discussed possibilities of me getting involved in helping her teach her section of Organic Chemistry 2. In our brainstorming meetings toward the end of last semester, we noted some of the key issues that arise with teaching a second-term organic chemistry course. We discussed issues such as the fact that students come to Organic Chemistry 2 with varying degrees of comfort with certain topics. Where one student may excel may be where another needs more support. To even this playing field, we came up with a guided learning platform to address some of these concerns. For instance, our first video on the SNAc mechanism attempts to provide more content support to students who may like to reference a step-by-step explanation of the mechanism.
It is not easy to say that my journey with the CUTF has been a smooth one. As a full-time student I have always been in the seats of the lecture hall, never on the professor’s podium. Fortunately, Dr. Powell has been a reassuring force in making me feel comfortable with the transition. She has helped in editing and revising my scripts so as to minimize any confusing language. When navigating through software like ChemDraw, she offered to guide me through some of the software’s tricky jargon. Her effort in the background to address every single question or concern is what has allowed my CUTF project to take off in the first place.
Being a teaching assistant for a course is something that I have found very rewarding. For anyone who intends to delve into a subject more, being a teaching assistant is the perfect way to do so. However, finding this opportunity may be daunting at first. As a result, I highly recommend finding a subject you are deeply interested in. It is crucial to find a professor who is willing to experiment with new ideas. The first step is to attend office hours and build a meaningful relationship with a professor who has the same vision as you. After all, with a knowledgeable mentor by your side, your vision can become reality.