Published: March 14, 2022 By

Teaching undergraduate-level engineering courses is always a challenge. Teaching advanced concepts via remote instruction during a historic pandemic is even harder.  

The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering recognized nine teaching assistants with the David T. Spalding Graduate Teaching Fund Fellowship for their support of undergraduate education over the past two years of remote instruction.

The following students earned this recognition by going above and beyond the normal responsibilities and contributions of teaching assistants:
  • Ezra Baghdady (Medlin and Schwartz Groups)
  • Davis Conklin (Weimer Group)
  • Daisy Fuchs (Sprenger Group)  
  • Maria Kelly (Smith Group)
  • Brandon Oliphant (Medlin Group)  
  • Hunter Simonson (Smith Group)
  • Justin Tran (Weimer Group)
  • Andrew Yeang (McGehee and Smith Groups)
  • Xinpei Zhou (Medlin Group)

“These students were absolutely instrumental to the success of several of our undergraduate courses over the last couple of years, especially during the switch to remote learning,” said Teaching Associate Professor Wendy Young. “Our department is grateful for the contributions to undergraduate student learning outcomes from our graduate teaching assistants.”

The graduate students frequently volunteered to spend additional time to help administer their courses and mentor the undergraduates during an unprecedented period of personal and professional challenges. They often worked additional hours, took on additional responsibilities, proctored make-up exams, managed email communications and more.

“I tried to support undergraduates by being flexible and responsive,” said Davis Conklin, one of the recipients of the fellowship. "Some individuals and groups that were uncomfortable asking questions during office hours, particularly within the virtual format, produced incredible discussion during one-on-one meetings with me. The extra time I spent in these meetings was well worth the growth and learning I witnessed in the students as a result.”

Maria Kelly was a teaching assistant for the fluid mechanics course who provided individualized support and mentoring to a student who requested additional help.

“While it was challenging that my first TA role was for an entirely online class, I had fun interacting with students and seeing their progress week after week,” Kelly said. “I found it very rewarding to see students who struggled at the beginning of the course become really confident with the material by the end of the semester.”

Justin Tran provided one-on-one Zoom meetings with students who requested additional instruction and support.

“My philosophy was to provide the undergraduates with as much support as possible through this difficult time because that is what I would have wanted as an undergraduate,” Tran said. “This meant responding to emails as soon as possible, especially when it was a last-minute question right before the homework was due. The students seem to have been very appreciative of this and ended up doing well in the course overall."

Andrew Yeang developed new ways to best serve the undergraduates in his course.

“As the advanced TA, I helped organize the office hours in a structured way by ensuring each Zoom room was dedicated to a specific homework problem, streamlining the experience for students to know which office hours to attend if they wanted help with a specific problem,” Yeang said. “Students always expressed gratitude for the availability of office hours.”

The fellowship provided a one-time stipend of $1,000 to each student nominated for the award.