Georgia Tech students examine the spectrum of a neon light through spectroscopes following a lab lecture I taught on star formation and element evolution for EAS 1601 Habitable Planet (Fall 2018).
"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."
- William B. Yates
⬅️ A song by UW-Madison undergrad David Hodel. This song was submitted as his final course project for GEOSCI 106 Environmental Geology that I TA'ed in 2019. It is shared with his permission.
The courses I taught (and my personal reflections):
EAS 4814 Geomorphology
I led the lab section of an advanced geomorphology class taught by Prof. Ken Ferrier in Spring 2018 at Georgia Tech. This was my very first formal teaching experience and I enjoyed and learned a lot about the teaching process. In this picture, I was explaining to the students the nuts and bolts of the finite difference scheme used to numerically solve the hillslope diffusion equation. I want to make sure students know more than tweaking the parameters of a function that is handed to them. By internalize the underlying math and algorithmic thinking, students will gradually become equipped with the ability to write their own codes and solve new problems! The four monthly labs gave students plenty of time to work on each lab project and discuss questions they may have with me during my office hours. Not a single office hour went by without a student stopping by with questions!
EAS 1601 Habitable Planet
I led a lab section of an introductory planetary science course taught by Prof. James Wray. I still remember the smile on my face when I was grading a student's assignment who demonstrated in a cute drawing the principle of the Doppler Effect that underlies the radial velocity detection of exoplanets. The overarching goal of this course is a grand one. It leads the students on an intellectual trip to understand the composition and evolution of stars and planets and what make a particular planet habitable. The trip they embarked is partially fueled by the physics, chemistry and math they learned in high school and the first year of college. I love explaining the fundamental physical principles at the beginning of each lecture as they underpin what comes later in the lab. As in the cover photo at the top of this page, some lab sections come with simple hands-on experiments from which students can see the physcial principles at play right on site!
GEOSCI 106 Environmental Geology
Look! That silvery gray mineral with metallic luster in the middle of the board is galena, the state mineral of Wisconsin! Of course, I wouldn't reveal the answer to the students in the lab so easily. They would form small groups and take turns to identify minerals on this 3 by 3 Tic-Tac-Toe "board". Understanding the geology beneath your feet and the inner workings of the natural environment around you offers great intellectual pleasure and sometimes can translate into real-world applications and solutions to tough environmental problems we are facing today. That is the type of thinking I was trying to impart to the students. The students in this class were mostly non-geoscience majors or students who hadn't declared a major. Prof. Ken Ferrier and I led them on a whirlwind tour of a wide range of topics in Earth and environmental sciences in Fall 2019. I couldn't feel prouder when a student creatively weaved the geoscience concepts he learned in the class into a song he sang and accompanied himself on guitar (video embedded above).