Teaching and Mentoring

Courses taught at IU: Z460 Animal Behavior (every Fall semester)

Active learning and critical thinking

As a teacher and mentor, I aim to show students the power of the scientific method and the interesting questions that logical experiments can answer. When basic biological principles are presented with clarity and course expectations are clearly laid-out, students move beyond memorization, towards high order critical thinking -- something that will be an asset in any career path. My teaching methods emphasize this approach, so that when it comes time to write a paper or take an exam, students are better prepared to draw links between concepts and to excel at critical thinking. Moving 'beyond the powerpoint slide' is an important step in engaging students. My lectures typically include an short activity where students are asked to solve a short problem in smaller groups, watch a quick You-Tube video, or work through a game to illustrate a concept (Check out the Mating Game, one of my favorite in class activities!). Not surprisingly, active learning exercises and similar types of 'research based instruction' have been shown to improve student learning, attendance, and engagement.

Scientific ethics and the training of future academic scientists

Graduate students typically report excellent training in the science portion of being a scientist; however, academic scientists must wear many different hats to be successful (mentor, teacher, manager, advisor, mediator, etc.), and how to succeed at each of these roles is often not taught. Modeled after some of the pre-professional training I received in graduate school, I have implemented a series of professional development modules aimed at graduate students. These have included: an anonymous survey of faculty/students about lab management, discussion of anonymous letters from faculty re: 'What type of school is right for you', guides for how to get a postdoc, targeted readings of how to manage a lab (inspired by Mohamed Noor's blog). I have taken an active role in discussing these issues with undergraduates as well, both informally and during panels re: graduate school at various undergraduate research symposia.

Ethical decision-making lies at the heart of many of the issues we encounter in our roles as teacher, mentor and researcher. At IU, I have also emphasized this arm of scientific training as a panelist at a university-wide ethics training and also as a co-instructor for Scientific Ethics for the BioBehavioral Sciences.


Learn more about the undergraduates working with me.
Check back soon for updates on their exciting work, as it develops.
Indiana University undergraduate Sonya Jayaratna (Class of 2013) presents her summer research on "size, sensitivity and signal" -- Do gonad size and the expression of LH-receptors on the gonad predict hormonal phenotype in male birds? (Behavior 2011, Joint Meeting of the Animal Behavior Society and the International Ethological Congress). Sonya graduated in 2013 after defending a highly successful Honors Thesis. She is now in medical school at IU.
Sara Friedline (on the left), graduated in 2012 in Environmental Science. Sara's fascinating senior thesis looked at the effect of climate change on avian breeding biology, compiling the climate data from Mountain Lake Biological Station and comparing it to breeding data from the Ketterson lab's long term dataset on dark-eyed juncos. Sara is now pursuing her M.S. in Biology/Conservation at Central Mighican University.
Natasha Tonge (Swarthmore College, Class of 2011) completed a successful summer project on the "brain-body connection" during a summer REU program through the Center for the Integrative Study of Animal Behavior at IU. She recently presented a poster at Behavior 2011 on whether hormone levels, sensitivity to hormones in the brain, and hormone-mediated ornamental phenotypes co-vary, as a key step in understanding whether these traits co-evolve. Natasha continues to develop her interest in behavioral neuroscience as a research assistant at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in the Center for Autism Research.