Teaching Excellence

Distinguished Teaching Award


Tabitha Buehler

Tabitha Buehler Honored with U’s Distinguished Teaching Award

Tabitha Buehler, Associate Lecture Professor of Physics and Astronomy, has been recognized for her significant contributions to teaching by receiving a Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Utah. Only five faculty members are honored each year with the award.

Faculty who are selected must meet several criteria, including a consistent record of outstanding teaching performance; implementing innovative and effective teaching methods that demonstrate exceptional abilities to motivate student learning; a concern for students and their wider education and career preparation; and contributions to the educational process outside of the classroom.

Below is a conversation with Professor Buehler about the award, her approach to teaching, and working with students.

Could you discuss your teaching philosophy and approach to working with students? Has your teaching style changed/evolved? 

In the classroom.

In my instruction, I try to promote the idea that intelligence and abilities are not fixed—they can be improved over time with work. For example, a student is not inherently “bad at math.” Instead, there are just some math concepts or skills that the student has not mastered yet. Different students may learn in different ways, but I believe that everyone is capable of growth in all areas of study, even in areas in which they don’t feel naturally competent. I explicitly encourage this kind of thinking in my students. Part of the way I do this is by setting clear expectations and holding students accountable for their learning. I present students with challenges that I expect them to struggle with, but I also give them tools and support to help them through these challenges, highlighting their growth and success so that it is evident to them that they are progressing.

I believe it is within my sphere of influence to create a classroom environment that facilitates growth and learning for all students. I work to create a positive learning experience that includes both effective learning activities and a space in which all students feel comfortable asking questions and admitting confusion. I utilize a lot of active and collaborative learning. One of my goals is for students from all backgrounds and perspectives to have their learning needs addressed, and I strive to make sure materials are presented in a respectful way. I appreciate and carefully consider any input and suggestions for improvement from all students.

I have worked through my experiences as an instructor to identify areas where I can improve and to research and independently inform myself of effective teaching methods. My practice has evolved over time as I test different methods and retain the ones that I find most effective. I try to balance the accountability that my students have for their own learning with the responsibility that I have as a learning facilitator.

What does it mean to you to have received this recognition from the U? 

It’s such an honor to receive this award. It’s humbling since I personally know so many excellent and dedicated instructors at the university.

On the roof of the South Physics building

What do you enjoy about teaching and working with students?

I love participating in another person’s learning experience. It’s so fun for me to witness those moments when someone makes an exciting discovery, gains a deeper understanding, or “finally gets it.” My goal is to facilitate learning in such a way so that every one of my students has the opportunity to experience at least one of these moments.

I really enjoy getting to know my students, and it’s important to me to learn their names. I primarily teach introductory science courses to non-science majors, and in these classes my students often don’t begin a semester believing that the course might apply to their chosen fields or their everyday lives. It’s fun to help them discover how physics is directly applicable in their lives and interests or how it can help them gain proficiencies and tools that are relevant in their fields. It’s my hope that my students carry with them the sense that I care about them and am committed to supporting them in their learning.

You’re also involved in numerous public outreach activities.

I supervise student Teaching Assistants (TAs) who work as science communicators in the South Physics Observatory public outreach group. The group, led by Paul Ricketts, holds free public star parties on Wednesday nights; gives presentations to groups who come to campus; and takes telescopes and presentations off campus to schools, workshops, scout groups, and other community groups. I support the TAs as they practice communication skills and develop content and activities. I also personally give several outreach presentations on physics and astronomy topics at schools, workshops, and community gatherings each year.

Could you discuss your work with CSME?

I am a Faculty Associate with the Center for Science and Mathematics Education (CSME), and I served as a Faculty Fellow in the CSME’s UPSTEM (Utah Pathways to STEM) Initiative in 2018-2019, helping to build inclusive curricula in the College of Science and improved degree pathways for transfer students to the University of Utah from Salt Lake Community College.

I have been heavily involved in the Learning Assistant (LA) program that the CSME has deployed in the College of Science: https://csme.utah.edu/la/

LAs are undergraduates who receive pedagogical training to facilitate active learning and support instructors in building collaborative classroom environments, with the goal of increasing effective learning. I am the LA Coordinator for the Physics and Astronomy Department and have worked to increase the involvement of the department in this program. I reach out to fellow instructors, encouraging them to use LAs in their courses and offer support and resources for them to do so. I have helped to recruit and place LAs in well-matched courses, and I act as a resource for the LAs who are working in the instructional teams in our department. I also teach the pedagogy course (SCI 5050) for the CSME’s program that provides the training for the LAs. In the course, I introduce the LAs to research-based teaching strategies that have been shown to lead to long-term learning. I support them in effectively applying these practices in their various instructional teams throughout the College of Science and also help them to build a foundation for their own lifelong learning.

Where did you receive your education? When did you join the U?

I completed a Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy at Brigham Young University fall 2011, and I began as an Assistant Lecture Professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Utah in spring 2012.

 

by Michele Swaner first published @ physics.utah.edu

Branding Intern

Vistim Labs


Branding Intern

Micro-internship option

 

Position Description:

  • Priority Application Deadline: March 11, 2022
  • Anticipated Start Date: April/May, flexible
  • Anticipated End Date: 3 months after start date
  • Hours/Week:  a minimum of 3 hours/week
  • Work Schedule: Flexible
  • Work Location: Flexible
  • Compensation from host organization: none
  • Company Website: https://vistimlabs.com/

Program Requirements:

  • Must have completed at least 30 credit hours by the internship start date
  • Must be in good academic standing
  • Must be a declared major in the College of Science or a recent graduate

Additional Requirements for This Position:

  • None

Company Background:

Vistim Labs is a medical device company producing the world's first tool for objectively measuring cognitive deficits to serve clinicians and researchers address neurological disorders. Our technology can be used to detect early onset of disorders and to unlock emerging treatments by serving the critical unmet need of measuring treatment efficacy such that disease management therapies can be evaluated and optimized.

Job Brief:

We are looking for a self-motivated student with an interest in branding and science to join our team and help us achieve an important project: to develop a Press Kit we can distribute with interested journals and newspapers. A stretch goal is to publish a press release. We invite you to join us and help us document the progress we are making in an exciting field where our mission is to save lives and improve the quality of life for more than 1B people on Earth!

Responsibilities Include:

  •  Design a targeted brand strategy & press strategy
  • Participate in customer interviews to learn about the market
  • Develop Press Kit for partners and journalists
  • Review & suggest Website / Slide Deck content & template
  • Contribute new ideas to create buzz and attention

To be successful in this role, we encourage you to learn by doing. You are not expected to be an expert. Experience writing social media posts and blog posts will help. Due to the international nature of our work, this position is remote. Ultimately, this is a great opportunity for the aspiring brand/advertising manager to get experience marketing applied research. It is also a great opportunity to develop a greater understanding of the commercialization efforts behind medical technology. In this role, you will have the opportunity to work with people from around the world in a very early-stage start-up. A large part of your role is self-directed - perfect if you enjoy autonomy!

Desired Skills:

  • Interest in either branding, advertising, social media, and/or start-ups
  • Some experience with the above is helpful, but not required

Benefits:

  • Gain much sought after communication skills
  • Learn about working in a start-up
  • Network internationally with a Salt Lake City-based organization
  • Have solid deliverables at the end of your internship
  • Build your portfolio

Although not required, submitting examples of marketing, advertising, social media projects or abilities is encouraged for this position.

Additional Information:

  • This internship is part of the Facilitated Internship Program. If the student works fewer than 100 hours, it will be considered a micro-internship. What is a micro-internship? This is a fairly new concept and is like an internship, but involves fewer hours of work. Although the hours are fewer, the experience is still robust and an intern for this position would end with a solid portfolio, experience in coding, and an expanded network. The stipend for the micro-internship is $100. All other aspects of the Facilitated Internship Program are the same.
  • Applicants are encouraged to apply for the Career Exploration Scholarship.
  • Contact the internship coordinator at jacqueline.broida@utah.edu with any questions about the position, program, or scholarship.

Python Intern

Vistim Labs


Python Intern

Micro-internship option

 

Position Description:

  • Priority Application Deadline: March 11, 2022
  • Anticipated Start Date: April/May, flexible
  • Anticipated End Date: 3 months after start date
  • Hours/Week:  a minimum of 3 hours/week
  • Work Schedule: Flexible
  • Work Location: Flexible
  • Compensation from host organization: none
  • Company Website: https://vistimlabs.com/

Program Requirements:

  • Must have completed at least 30 credit hours by the internship start date
  • Must be in good academic standing
  • Must be a declared major in the College of Science or a recent graduate

Additional Requirements for This Position:

  • None

Company Background:

Vistim Labs is a medical device company producing the world's first tool for objectively measuring cognitive deficits to serve clinicians and researchers address neurological disorders. Our technology can be used to detect early onset of disorders and to unlock emerging treatments by serving the critical unmet need of measuring treatment efficacy such that disease management therapies can be evaluated and optimized.

Job Brief:

We are looking for a self-motivated student with an interest in Python, machine learning, and neuroscience, to join our engineering team and help us achieve an important project: to develop a functional software interface that can be used to showcase the technology. A stretch goal is for the system to also support collecting and recording new patient datasets. Most of our code (including algorithms) are in individual Matlab files and we would like to port them into Python and run them with a clean graphical interface.

Responsibilities Include:

  • Contributing to project specifications & designing project development plan
  • Communicating with our colleagues (engineers / researchers) in the US and in Europe
  • Interpreting Matlab code & writing effective & scalable code in Python
  • Designing simple user-face elements into the application
  • Testing and debugging your code & user experience

To be successful in this role, we encourage you to learn by doing. Experience writing Python code using math libraries will help you. Exposure to Python GUI elements will help you. You are not expected to know everything right away. Due to the international nature of our work, this position is remote.

Ultimately, this is a great opportunity  to get experience in applied research. It is also a great opportunity for the junior researcher to develop greater understanding of commercialization efforts and machine learning. In this role, you will have the opportunity to work with engineers and researchers around the world in a very early stage start-up. A large part of your role is self-directed - perfect if you enjoy autonomy!

Desired Skills:

  • Interest in and some experience with Python
  • Knowledge of MatLab
  • Ability to work autonomously

Benefits:

  • Gain coding experience
  • Learn about working in a start-up
  • Network internationally with a Salt Lake City-based organization
  • Have solid deliverables at the end of your internship
  • Build your portfolio

Although not required, submitting examples of coding projects or abilities is encouraged for this position.

Additional Information:

  • This internship is part of the Facilitated Internship Program. If the student works fewer than 100 hours, it will be considered a micro-internship. What is a micro-internship? This is a fairly new concept and is like an internship, but involves fewer hours of work. Although the hours are fewer, the experience is still robust and an intern for this position would end with a solid portfolio, experience in coding, and an expanded network. The stipend for the micro-internship is $100. All other aspects of the Facilitated Internship Program are the same.
  • Applicants are encouraged to apply for the Career Exploration Scholarship.
  • Contact the internship coordinator at jacqueline.broida@utah.edu with any questions about the position, program, or scholarship.

Sarmishta Kannan

Sarmishta Kannan


In the entrance of the Eccles Health Sciences Education building.

For Sarmishta Diraviam Kannan, HBS’17, the journey to her “dream school” – the University’s School of Medicine – spanned about 25 years and some 8,780 miles.

Sarmishta was born in Tamil Nadu, India, which is located on the southern tip of the Indian sub-continent. In addition to the long history of the Tamil people, Tamil Nadu is famous for its temples, festivals, and celebration of the arts.

When Sarmishta was just nine years old, her family immigrated to the United States. They settled in Boston where her father worked for GE Healthcare. In 2008, the family moved to Salt Lake City, near the corporate headquarters of GE Healthcare, while her father continued his career with the company.

Sarmishta, who was then 12 years old and in junior high school, was still mastering English as a second language and adjusting to social norms and public education systems in America.

It was a difficult time for Sarmishta, but her “dream” was beginning to form.

Sarmishta graduated from Hillcrest High School, in Midvale, in 2013 with the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma.

“The IB diploma is a rigorous program, and I was the only one to take the higher-level courses in all three sciences of physics, chemistry and biology,” says Sarmishta. “It was through the IB program that I found my passion in the sciences, especially biological sciences, and completing the IB program prepared me well for college.”

Sarmishta decided to attend the U as an undergraduate because of the abundance of research opportunities and the Honors degree option in Biology which gave her the chance to perform long-term research that culminated with an Undergraduate Thesis. Plus, it put her in close proximity to the School of Medicine.

The “dream” was clear now and within reach.

“The Honors thesis requires involvement in research that finishes with writing a paper on a particular research project. That experience was valuable to me as I got the opportunity to be involved in a research project from start to finish,” says Sarmishta.

She worked with Dr. Kevin Jones at the Huntsman Cancer Institute to help discover the roles that lysosomes and autophagy play in alveolar soft parts sarcoma, clear cell sarcoma, and synovial sarcoma.

“In the Jones lab, it was fascinating for me to see how researchers used experimental data to understand cancer biology. So, I decided to pursue sarcoma research for my thesis,” says Sarmishta.

“I investigated the hypothesis that Alveolar Soft Parts Sarcoma (ASPS) and Clear Cell Sarcoma (CCS) morphology is attributed to lysosomes and that these cancers up-regulate autophagy genes using autophagy as a survival mechanism,” says Sarmishta.

“I learned to design investigations and troubleshoot various lab protocols to gather data and test the hypothesis. Critically analyzing the data supported the hypothesis that ASPS and CCS contain abundant autophagic lysosomes. However, it raised further questions indicating more research was necessary to better understand autophagy’s role in ASPS and CCS.”

“Writing my thesis taught me to build an evidence-based argument based on my data, critically analyze the work of others, synthesize new ideas for further research, and effectively communicate complex topics,” says Sarmishta.

Her thesis abstract was published in the 2016 University of Utah Undergraduate Research Journal. She also presented her thesis to Utah legislators at the Research on Capitol Hill event in 2017 and at Undergraduate Research Symposiums in 2016 and 2017.

After graduating with an Honors degree in Biology, she continued to work in the Jones lab as a full-time Lab Technician before starting medical school. She worked on various projects including writing a review manuscript on sarcomagenesis, titled Genetic Drivers and Cells of Origin in Sarcomagenesis, which was published in early 2021 in the Journal of Pathology.

She also worked on a project that focused on modeling synovial sarcoma metastasis in mouse models. Sarmishta was listed as a co-author on that paper and was published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

In the meantime, Sarmishta applied to the School of Medicine in 2019 and in 2020 and was accepted in 2020.

Finally, her “dream” was realized.

Today, Sarmishta is about halfway through her second year of the MD program at the University’s School of Medicine.

“It has been a very fulfilling experience so far! I am grateful to have the opportunity to follow my passion, learn about the human body, help and support people going through healthcare challenges. I am excited to start my clinical years where I get to rotate through various specialties in the hospital and apply all the knowledge I have been learning to patient care,” says Sarmishta.

In addition to school, she enjoys reading, painting, watching movies and singing.

In fact, Sarmishta is a classically-trained Carnatic singer. Carnatic music is a traditional system of music from India that provides a nearly limitless array of melodic patterns. It emphasizes vocal performance.

“I started singing when I was five and my parents enrolled me in Carnatic music classes in India. I continued my training after moving to the United States,” says Sarmishta.

“I perform publicly at the local Hindu Temple and at Indian festivals. One of my most cherished experiences was performing a Hindu song at the 6th Parliament of World Religions event, that was held in Salt Lake City.”

Sarmishta is scheduled to complete the MD program in 2024.

“A new dream is already forming,” she says.

 

Are you a Science Alumni? Connect with us today!

 

Ray Greer

Ray Greer


Peter Trapa, Jill Clements, Ray Greer

When Ray Greer, BS’86, was just 12 years old, his mother, Sandra J. Bromley, moved her young family from Texas to Utah. The year was 1976. Sandra was promptly hired at the University of Utah and enjoyed a successful career as a technical illustrator in the College of Mines and Earth Sciences under the direction of Frank H. Brown.

Ray spent his teenage years in Midvale and attended Hillcrest high school.

“My mother was the single greatest influence in my life,” says Greer. “She taught me the value of hard work and perseverance. She also insisted that college was not optional. It was like going from junior high to high school – you just did it!”

Ray enrolled at the U for Fall semester 1981 and was initially interested in computer science and engineering. However, computer science was highly competitive at the time so available classes were scarce.

“Fortunately, Hugo Rossi, a math professor, convinced me that if I majored in mathematics I could get as much course work in computer science as I wanted. And the rest is history,” says Greer.

After receiving his math degree at the U, Greer went on to earn a Master’s of Science in Information Systems and Telecommunications from Christian Brothers University, a small private college in Memphis.

Honoring a Legacy
In 2000, after retiring from the U, Ray’s mother, Sandra, moved back to Texas for the remaining years of her life. She passed away in 2011. Shortly thereafter, Ray established the Sandra J. Bromley scholarship in the College of Science to honor his mother by providing a way for deserving students to earn a college degree.

“She worked hard to provide for her family, but her greatest regret in life was not attending college herself, hence the vision behind the Bromley scholarship,” says Greer.

“Her requirement was that she would support me as long as I didn’t quit school,” says Greer. “That is why the Bromley scholarship requires continuous attendance.”

The Bromley scholarship is designed to provide financial support to undergraduate students who are declared Science majors and who stay enrolled and make steady progress towards a science degree. The award covers full tuition for up to four years.

Four students currently hold the Bromley scholarship – Noel McAllister, Keegan Benfield, Michaela Fluck, and Dannon Allred. As part of his commitment to student success, Greer visits campus at least once a year to meet and encourage the scholarship recipients.

Dannon Allred, Michaela Fluck, Jill Clements, Ray Greer, Keegan Benfield, Noel McAllister

On the Move
Greer has more than 35 years of experience in logistics and transportation industries. He has held senior management positions for Greatwide Logistics Services, Newgistics, Ryder Logistics and FedEx. He served as president of BNSF Logistics, headquartered near Dallas, Texas, from 2011 to 2018.

“Math allows me to think critically about situations and problems generally. Not just numerically but logically, to find patterns and trends that point to likely outcomes,” says Greer.

In 2018, Ray was named as CEO of Omnitracs, a leading company in onboard technology for the transportation industry. Omnitracs is an international billion-dollar company that provides telematic devices and logistics to support drivers and their organizations to be compliant, safe and efficient.

“Math is universal and most importantly it teaches you discipline and persistence to work a problem until it is solved. That process of critical thinking and problem solving has served me well throughout my entire career,” says Greer.

Greer has high hopes and expectations for today’s college students. His advice: “Connecting with people, not apps and cell phones, will differentiate you from the competition.”

 

Are you a Science Alumni? Connect with us today!

 

Conservation Communications Intern

Sageland Collaborative


Conservation Communications Intern

 

Micro-Internship

 

Application Deadline: April 4, 2022
Anticipated Start Date: end of April/early May, flexible
Anticipated End Date: End of August 2022
Hours/Week: 4 hours/week

Work Schedule: flexible                                                                                                                                                              Work Location: Semi-remote. Most work can be completed remotely on a flexible schedule, but some trainings will be in-person. Due to this, a selected intern should expect to be near SLC to complete this internship
Supervisor: Sarah Woodbury, Communications & Outreach Director
Compensation from host organization: none                                                                                                                    Company Website: https://sagelandcollaborative.org/

Program Requirements:

  • Must have completed at least 30 credit hours by the internship start date
  • Must be in good academic standing
  • Must be a declared major in the College of Science or a recent graduate

Position Description:

SEEKING A COMMUNICATOR WHO IS PASSIONATE ABOUT WILDLIFE CONSERVATION IN THE WEST

Goal:

To create engaging, mission-driven stories and perform outreach strategies that increase volunteer and donor numbers. Purpose: To engage the community in our work, deepening their involvement in local conservation and having a lasting impact on wildlife and habitats.

Major Responsibilities:

  • Coordinate with supervisor and communications team to create stunning social media and email campaigns that increase engagement
  • Track and analyze communication and volunteer metrics
  • Collaborate with supervisor to plan and execute meaningful volunteer trainings, communications, and events
  • Craft creative outreach materials and work with supervisor to engage public
  • Support making conservation science projects accessible to diverse groups
  • Support messaging around the story of Sageland Collaborative to increase public and partner awareness of and involvement with our projects

Qualifications:

  • Passion for wildlife conservation
  • An understanding of and commitment to Sageland Collaborative's mission
  • Demonstrated ability to write and communicate effectively
  • Self-driven, excited to take initiative
  • Creative, collaborative, and strategic thinker; passionate about storytelling
  • Social media savvy
  • Organized, able to work w/team remotely
  • Committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Excited about making science accessible

Bonus Skills:

  • Graphic design skills
  • Video storytelling skills
  • Experience creating effective communications campaigns
  • Experience engaging diverse western communities, including BIPOC, LGBTQ+, Latinx, rural, and Indigenous tribes
  • Understands major conservation activities and issues in the West
  • Speaks Spanish
  • Familiar with conservation science field and able to translate scientific work into accessible language & stories

Benefits for the intern:

  • Will gain skills & experience in environmental communication and storytelling.
  • Will gain professional contacts in the West's conservation network.
  • Will learn about conservation science and current issues through close collaboration with a small, effective team.
  • Position encourages creative thinking and innovation.
  • Finished products to use for portfolio.

 

To apply for this position, include a sample of your work with your application materials. This can include writing samples and/or creative projects such as graphic designs or video projects.

Additional Information:

This micro-internship is part of the Facilitated Internship Program. What is a micro-internship? This is a fairly new concept and is like an internship, but involves fewer hours of work. Although the hours are fewer, the experience is still robust and an intern for this position would end with a solid communication portfolio, experience in conservation, and an expanded network. The stipend for the micro-internship is $100. All other aspects of the Facilitated Internship Program are the same.

Applicants are encouraged to apply for the Career Exploration Scholarship.

Contact the internship coordinator at jacqueline.broida@utah.edu with any questions about the position, program, or scholarship.

Summer Mosquito Control Internship

Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District


Summer Mosquito Control Internship

 

 

Application Deadline: March 18, 2022
Anticipated Start Date: end of April/early May, flexible
Anticipated End Date: August 31, 2021 with the potential to extend further
Hours/Week:  40 hours/week                                                                                                                                                    Work Schedule: Intern must work from 7:00am-3:30pm, M-F                                                                                            Work Location: This position involves both lab and fieldwork in SLC
Compensation from host organization: $15/hour
Company Website: http://www.slcmad.org/

Program Requirements:

  • Must have completed at least 30 credit hours by the internship start date
  • Must be in good academic standing
  • Must be a declared major in the College of Science or a recent graduate

Additional Requirements for This Position:

  • Must be a Biology or Chemistry major or minor, or similar
  • Must have passed (B or better) a general Biology and a general Chemistry course

Position Description:

The Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District (SLCMAD) is a local governmental entity serving the citizens of Salt Lake City. The mission of the SLCMAD is the enhancement of health and quality of life through the suppression of mosquito-transmitted diseases and the reduction of annoyance levels caused by mosquitoes. Research on the biology and control of mosquitoes and mosquito-borne diseases plays an integral role in fulfilling this mission.

The SLCMAD is seeking highly motivated individuals to assist the SLCMAD Laboratory during the summer season.

Interns will be responsible for performing field  and laboratory work for research projects, such as placing and servicing mosquito traps, performing assays on mosquitoes, collecting juvenile mosquitoes from the field, assist in raising mosquitoes in a laboratory. Additionally, intern will to assist in laboratory operations such as testing mosquitoes for pathogens. Interns may also be asked to contribute in analysis and writing for scientific manuscripts.

DESIRED SKILLS

  • Interest in entomology, biology, environmental science
  • Willingness to work outdoors
  • Adherence to laboratory standards and protocols
  • Good interpersonal skills and communication ability
  • Valid Utah driver’s license, with a good driving record

BENEFITS:

  • Gain experience in research methodology
  • Learn operational techniques for mosquito control
  • Develop knowledge of techniques and procedures for vector-borne disease monitoring and public health stewardship.

Check out the Spotlight to learn more about a similar internship with this organization: https://science.utah.edu/internships/getting-started/intern_spotlight_slcmad/

Additional Information:

This internship is part of the Facilitated Internship Program.

Applicants are encouraged to apply for the Career Exploration Scholarship.

Contact the internship coordinator at jacqueline.broida@utah.edu with any questions about the position, program, or scholarship.

Teaching Excellence

Early Career Teaching Award


Gail Zasowski Receives Early Career Teaching Award

Gail Zasowski, Assistant Professor in the Department of Physics & Astronomy, has been awarded an Early Career Teaching Award from the University of Utah. This is considered the highest teaching award for pre-tenured faculty and recognizes significant contributions to teaching at the university through new and innovative methods. The University Teaching Committee evaluates nominees based on a teaching portfolio, a curriculum vitae, letters of support, and student evaluations. This year the committee selected six early-career faculty from across campus for the award, including Zasowski.

“I am honored and grateful to the U for this recognition,” said Zasowski. “The U’s educational mission is being fulfilled every day in so many enthusiastic, impactful, and creative ways, and it’s very exciting (and fun!) for me to be a part of that.”

David Kieda, Dean of the Graduate School, Distinguished Professor of Physics & Astronomy, and Co-Director, Consortium for Dark Sky Studies, nominated Zasowski for the award. Anil Seth, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy, and Tobin Wainer, Research Assistant and Associate Instructor in the department, were among those who wrote letters of support.

Seth described Zasowski’s excellence in teaching and mentoring students, particularly within her research group.

“Gail’s approach to mentoring within her research group is very student focused. She engages her students not just about the science they are doing, but also by encouraging them to develop non-research professional skills from networking to writing. She regularly checks in with students about their career goals and is flexible in her assignment of student projects to accommodate their interests.”

Wainer noted her approach to teaching STEM classes.

“Through my work with Dr. Zasowski, I have come to learn that not only is she a brilliant scientist, but she is a model for how professors should approach teaching STEM classes. What sets Dr. Zasowski apart is her compassion for people in the department, her dedication to being the best professor she can be, and her willingness to expend exuberant effort to help others."

Zasowski, who joined the university in 2017, is an astronomer whose research focuses on understanding how galaxies produce and redistribute the heavy elements that shape the universe and enable life in it. She has taught classes ranging from introductory astronomy up through graduate-level courses on stars and galaxies. She has also mentored a large number of undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral researchers through a variety of research projects that explore these topics.

In addition to her work at the U, she serves as the Scientific Spokesperson for the current generation of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an international astronomical project to collect and analyze data from stars, galaxies, and black holes throughout the universe. As spokesperson, she works hard to ensure that the functioning of the collaboration is efficient, transparent, and equitable for its more than 800 astronomers and engineers spread across the globe.

Zasowski was named a Cottrell Scholar in 2021 by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, which honors early-career faculty members for the quality and innovation of not only their research programs but also their educational activities and their academic leadership. With the support of that award, she is currently developing a new peer-mentoring program within the Department of Physics & Astronomy, called the PANDA Network. She, other faculty and staff, and a number of undergraduate students are running a pilot program this spring, with the hope of launching the full program for new physics majors later this year.

by Michele Swaner, first published @ physics.utah.edu

Paul Watkins

Paul Watkins


As a boy growing up in Ogden, Utah, Paul Watkins attended summer programs at the U when he was in middle school. He enjoyed the experience and planned on attending the university because of its great reputation, affordability, and the fact that he could ride the express bus from Ogden to Salt Lake City.

When he began his freshman year at the U, Paul found that wanted to learn as much as possible to become a well-educated and well-rounded person. He was interested in so many subjects that it was difficult to declare a major.

At one point, he planned on a triple major in German, history, and philosophy, with an idea of going to graduate school in the humanities and teaching at either the high school or college level. In 1998, he graduated with a degree in German language and literature and a minor in history. He was one class shy of a completing a minor in philosophy, which he sometimes regrets not finishing.

Eventually, practical considerations set in, and Paul realized that he didn’t want to teach and that he needed to make a living. “Fortunately, I was good at math and physics, so this led me to the Electrical Engineering and Math Departments,” he said. He completed bachelor’s degrees in both mathematics and electrical engineering in 2003. He completed a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 2004. He worked on a Ph.D. in electrical engineering but did not complete the dissertation, opting for a job in industry instead.

Value of a U education

“My education at the U has made a huge difference in my life,” he said. “Without it, I wouldn’t have my career in electrical engineering. My studies in the humanities helped me to become a well-rounded individual, and my studies in the Math Department taught me to think critically. In my career, I have found that I’m constantly learning new things on the job, and I enjoy this. My education at the U gave me a solid foundation, which allows me to learn and understand a lot of technical content that I didn’t learn in a classroom.”

He was fortunate to receive departmental scholarships from the Math Department, which helped him complete his undergraduate degrees. “I’m very grateful to the Math Department. I try to contribute to the department’s Undergraduate Scholarships Fund every year to try to give back and pay it forward,” he said.

In graduate school, he won a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. He believes that having a math degree, in addition to an electrical engineering degree, played a huge role in receiving a fellowship. He is also grateful to a number of math professors who wrote recommendation letters for him.

Favorite professors at the U

Paul enjoyed his math studies and admired a number of professors in the Math Department, including Davar Khoshnevisan, Lajos Horvath, Alexander Balk, Nicholas Korevaar, Misha Kapovich, and Fletcher Gross, noting that all of them are super smart, experts in their field, and great educators.

His favorite professor was Anne Roberts. “I took multiple statistics classes from her. She took the time to get to know me, gave me very good advice on multiple occasions, and wrote recommendation letters for me. I am very grateful to her,” he said.

Paul is also indebted to Professors Neil Cotter and Behrouz Farhang of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department and Professor Emeritus Gerhard Knapp of the German and Comparative Literature Department for all their help and support.

When he wasn’t working on math or electrical engineering, he spent a lot of time studying in the library and playing chess. He took beginning racquetball and tennis classes and loved them, although he admits he was terrible at both.

Career highlights

His first job out of college was with a startup company, Slicex (short for Salt Lake Integrated Circuit Experts). The company had raised some venture capital and were trying to develop a product, and Paul found that his education at the U, especially his graduate work, had prepared him well. The work was very interesting, but the realities of being a startup also made the job stressful. A few times the company ran out of money. Eventually, the company failed.

Subsequently, he worked for several large companies, including T.D. Williamson, GE Healthcare, Moog Medical, and Cirtec Medical. While these companies proved more stable, they had other challenges. Often, they required significantly more paperwork than actual design work, particularly those companies in the medical field.

“My degrees in engineering and math have both been very helpful, and I’ve used statistics a lot in industry. My humanities degrees have also helped, as communication and writing skills are very important,” he said.

In his current position, he serves as principal engineer at Cirtec Medical, and the job is directly related to the work he was doing in graduate school. Paul works on medical implants for brain/computer interfaces and for neuromodulation, which refers to technology that acts directly upon nerves. Classes he took in graduate school that he never thought would be useful in industry, such as the physics of nuclear medicine and bioelectricity/electrophysiology, have come in handy.

Paul is still learning and his education at the U has benefited his family. “I share a lot of things I learned in college with my daughter,” he said. “We also spend a lot of time on campus, attending all kinds of events, like the Babcock Theatre, the Music Department’s Sundays@7 series, departmental open houses (the geology and chemistry departments put on great events!), the Physics Department’s star parties, and the Faraday Lecture series. These last two events have led directly to two science fair projects for my daughter. We are regular visitors of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, the Natural History Museum of Utah (NHMU), and Red Butte Garden. We’re also season ticket holders for the women’s gymnastics team. I’d like to give special thanks to Christy Bills, the entomology curator at the NHMU, for mentoring my daughter.”

Advice to students

If Paul could revisit himself as a freshman, he would tell himself to plan better. “Come up with a plan to make it through college, and try to take a manageable number of classes at a time,” he said. “Taking classes because you’re interested in a topic is fine but also have a career path in mind. And remember that internships and industry experiences are extremely important to prepare you for your career and complement your coursework. One important thing is to allocate plenty of time during your senior year for a job search and/or graduate school applications.”

As an undergrad, Paul took a class on Career and Life Planning from the Educational Psychology Department. Students took personality tests and interest surveys and investigated careers that were a good fit. They also interviewed people currently working in those fields. Paul highly recommends that current students take this type of class.

“Critical thinking skills are among the most important things you can get from your college education, and they’ll serve you well for the rest of your life,” he said. “I would highly recommend reading the book How to Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age by Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn.”

Paul believes that engineering or computer science majors should take a lot of math classes, too. “A math degree, in addition to your engineering or computer science degree, will help you in industry and in graduate school,” he said. He remembers that Professor Ken Golden once told a class that when an engineer also has a math degree it’s like they are an engineer on steroids. Paul also recommends obtaining a master’s degree because graduate school gives students a chance to study fun and interesting topics, and the master’s degree will be useful in a career.

When Paul isn’t attending campus events, he spends time birdwatching and volunteering for both HawkWatch International and the Raptor Inventory Nest Survey, both based in Salt Lake City.

by Michele Swaner, first published @math.utah.edu

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Utah Field Conservation

Hogle Zoo


Utah Field Conservation

**This application is now closed**

 

Application Deadline: February 21, 2022
Anticipated Start Date: May 23, 2022
Anticipated End Date: August 26, 2022
Hours/Week: 40 hours/week
Work Schedule: 4 x 10 hour days or 5 x 8 hour days, Monday - Saturday
Work Location: Interns report to Utah's Hogle Zoo.  This internship involves fieldwork.
Compensation: Scholarship can only be awarded to individuals identifying as female, and all genders who are of one or more of the following ethnic minority classifications: African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, Asian, Latino, Hispanic or Pacific Islander, as defined by The Beagle Conservation Scholarship.

Program Requirements:

  • Must have completed at least 30 credit hours by the internship start date
  • Must be in good academic standing
  • Must be a declared major in the College of Science or a recent graduate

Additional Requirements for This Position:

  • Applicants must be able to stand for at least 3 hours, safely lift 40lbs and must be capable of hiking an incline (1000ft/mile)
  • Applicants must be comfortable driving a truck, camping with other interns unsupervised, be familiar with camp cooking
  • Applicants must be able to provide proof of a negative TB test and current tetanus vaccine as well as pass a drug test and background check.
  • Must be eligible to work in the United States
  • Experience working in the field preferred, it is however essential the candidate enjoy working outdoors and camping.
  • Demonstrated enthusiasm for and interest in working in the conservation field
  • Basic knowledge and understanding of Microsoft Office is preferred

Position Description:

This internship program is designed to provide learning opportunities and practical experience, while gaining valuable knowledge relating to a career in wildlife conservation. Working in the Conservation Department alongside the Utah Conservation Programs Supervisor and the Conservation Action Coordinator, this internship offers a hands-on opportunity to work in a conservation program in a zoological setting and aims to give applicants insight into the field of conservation biology with case study and practical experience within the conservation efforts of Utah’s Hogle Zoo. Most fieldwork will focus on amphibians, in particular the boreal toad. Our aim is to conduct visual encounter surveys across their state range to monitor known populations, as well as; determine presence at sites historically known to be inhabited, identify breeding ponds and discover potential habitat for future reintroduction programs. Other field work will include: restoration activities along the Jordan River, trail camera maintenance, photo sorting and animal identification, as well as helping with on grounds community science activities such as Caterpillars Count, and staffing conservation tables at Zoo events. As is the nature of field work, do not expect a 9-5 Monday- Friday schedule. Multiple overnight trips are planned along with a few weekend trips, including Sundays. As an intern we expect you to be working 32-40 hours a week but we also understand your other commitments and will accommodate flexibility within reason.

Additional Information:

This internship is part of the Facilitated Internship Program.

Applicants are encouraged to apply for the Career Exploration Scholarship.

Contact the internship coordinator at jacqueline.broida@utah.edu with any questions about the position, program, or scholarship.