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The COVID-19 pandemic has likely impacted your professional life in many ways. As you come up for informal or formal review, it may be important to contextualize your productivity and performance in research, teaching, and/or service for your colleagues and any external evaluators. Impacts may include changes to your workload distribution, specific changes to duties, difficulties or delays due to COVID-19-related safety protocols, or the effects of increased care-giving obligations on your ability to complete professional obligations or projects.
Alerting reviewers and colleagues about particular pandemic-related issues and how they have affected you is optional. Should you choose to do so, here are two possibilities:
It is recommended that discussions of COVID impacts be brief and specific. Consider what you would like a reviewer to know that is relevant for evaluating your progress and productivity. The consequences of the pandemic will be felt for many years, so consider documenting relevant impacts now if you haven’t already. If you are uncertain about what to include in your review materials, you are encouraged to consult with mentors, your chair/director, or the Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs.
Research and Creative Work:
The Science Research Initiative (SRI) creates opportunities for first-year and transfer students to join a research lab in the College of Science, to begin to learn and master the skills they will need for a successful career in a STEM field.
Faculty can lead a stream of SRI scholars (3-10 students) in their lab on a project of their choosing, that relates to overall research productivity. By participating, faculty can help students gain research skills and mentorship that lead to academic retention, a more positive undergraduate experience and paths to graduate school.
1. First-year students, upon acceptance to the University of Utah, can apply to the SRI if they intend to declare a major or minor in the College of Science/College of Mines & Earth Sciences.
2. Upon admittance to the SRI, students are placed into research streams - a group of fellow students working together in the same lab.
3. Once in a lab, the stream is taught the necessary lab skills they will need, as well as begin creating community with their fellow students, faculty, and research lab members.
4. Students work with their stream for an academic year. They will then have the choice to continue with the SRI for a second year, becoming mentors for the next cohort of students, or leaving the lab for new opportunities.
Input from students, faculty, and staff is solicited.
Draft Strategic Plan available to stakeholders (UNID required)
Comment phase for Draft Strategic Plan
The retention rate in STEM fields is low—many students who initially plan to pursue a degree in STEM drop out because they don’t identify with the environment they’re exposed to and they don’t enjoy their STEM courses. How can we keep students excited and interested in staying in STEM?
Claudia De Grandi, assistant professor (lecturer) of educational practice in the Physics and Astronomy Department, spends most of her time thinking about how to make her courses more inclusive and how to encourage every student, independently of their background, abilities and identities, to participate and engage in STEM fields successfully.
“I love teaching because of its challenges,” said De Grandi. “Something that worked well in one place may not work in another setting. It’s the role of the teacher to listen to the students and adapt to be in tune with them. My goals are to be equitable and inclusive, although I don’t always achieve it.
Unfortunately, we’re all biased, and it’s our responsibility to keep trying to understand how it feels to be someone else.” De Grandi tries her best to consider the hurdles and inequities each student has to overcome to succeed in school. She has taught at Yale University, Housatonic Community College (Bridgeport, Conn.), and now at the U.
Her teaching style relies on the adoption of evidence-based teaching practices and is informed by the latest results from Physics Education Research (PER). PER is the field of physics that aims to understand and assess how students learn and make sense of physics concepts and identify successful teaching practices and instructional approaches.
In support of previous PER research, De Grandi has found that using active learning techniques and providing opportunities to promote group work are key to student success. “I started implementing group quizzes a few years ago—now I also do group exams. I prompt student reflections (on exam mistakes, performance, and preparation) and on their mindset (growth or fixed),” said De Grandi. “I do like to surprise my students by asking them to talk about something not related to physics. Learning is not just about content—I work to make sure my students are comfortable sitting in class so they can focus on learning.”
Here is what one student said about De Grandi’s teaching: “Claudia is amazing, and she’s one of the main reasons I enjoy coming to class. Her drawings are cute, and her examples are always fun and silly. She includes everyone and really knows how to make a class fun. I was worried I’d hate physics but she definitely made me love it. “
De Grandi grew up in Milan, Italy, where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in physics from the University of Milan. In 2011, she obtained a Ph.D. in theoretical condensed matter physics from Boston University.
She was at Yale University first as a research postdoc and continued as a teaching postdoc through the Yale Center for Teaching and Learning. She joined the U in July 2018 as an assistant professor (lecturer) in the Department of Physics & Astronomy. De Grandi has been actively involved in faculty training on teaching for the past five years and has served as a facilitator and leader for the Summer Institutes on Scientific Teaching (https://www.summerinstitutes.org/) at several U.S. campuses as well as at University College London. She is currently collaborating with the U’s Center for Science and Mathematics Education to bring a Summer Institute to the U next spring. Interested faculty from the College of Science will be invited to participate.
At the U, De Grandi has redesigned and led the Teaching Assistant (TA) Orientation for Physics and Astronomy graduate students. The training focuses on preparing incoming graduate students to teach by promoting group work, being aware of student diversity, and fostering a welcoming environment.
“This spring I’ll be teaching a new course called “Being Human in STEM,” said De Grandi. “Although I’ve taught this course before at Yale, this will be my first time teaching it here, along with a team of colleagues in math, chemistry, and astronomy.”
The course combines academic inquiry and community engagement to investigate diversity and climate within STEM. Students will examine how diverse personal backgrounds shape the STEM experience both at the U and nationally. “The goal is to start a dialogue among STEM faculty and students to identify issues with the STEM environment and develop interventions to help ameliorate these problems,” said De Grandi. “I look forward to teaching the course, and learning, from and with the students.”
- by Michele Swaner
First Published in Discover Magazine, Fall 2019