Dean’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant Prize awarded to James Li and Christopher Luong

The 2022-2023 Dean’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant Prize for the best performance by a BSD graduate student who is TAing in fulfillment of the Divisional Teaching Requirement was awarded to both James Li (Interdisciplinary Scientist Training Program) and Christopher Luong (Computational Neuroscience). In addition, Divisional Teaching Assistant Awards went Caroline Abbott, Josh Hackney, and Mingyu Qi.

James Li is in his third year of the graduate portion in the Interdisciplinary Scientist Training Program (MD/PhD). He receives the prize in recognition of his teaching assistantship in PBHS 30910, Epidemiology and Population Health, in Autumn 2022. Comments students reflected that he went above and beyond to ensure that students understood the material in the class, and was passionate about the success of his students. One student commented “James was exceptionally charitable with his time and energy. Being his student was a complete joy.” Another student commented “He created a studious and welcoming learning environment in his discussion section, where students felt encourage to participate and safe to make wrong answers in the pursuit of learning and self-improvement.” Finally, from a third student, “James is one of the most caring and hard working educators (TA or Professor) I’ve ever encountered.”  

Christopher Luong is a fourth year student in the program in Computational Neuroscience. He receives the prize in recognition of his teaching assistantship in NURB 31800, Cellular Neurobiology, in Winter 2023. Both faculty and students were enthusiastic about his commitment to the course and the students, making sure the material was clear and students were supported. He held additional review sessions before exams, and make up discussion sessions for students participating in departmental activities. Student comments noted “He had an exceptional knack for making the course material accessible, meeting each student at their level of understanding and utilizing his remarkable depth of knowledge and people skills to bring us to bring us up to speed.”  Students noted his willingness to stay after class to answer questions, detailed responses to emailed questions at all hours, and making himself available for office hours. Multiple students noted he cared about students mental health and well being, giving information about available resources, as well as being supportive of the stressors in first-year students’ lives and advocating for them with the faculty of the course. Finally, one student commented, “ I definitely feel I learnt a lot from him about how to teach.”

The Divisional Teaching Assistantship Award
Caroline Abbott is a fifth year student in the graduate program in Evolutionary Biology. She shares the Divisional Teaching Assistantship Award for her work in BIOS 23262, Mammalian Evolutionary Biology in Autumn 2022. She was cited for advocating for the students, passing along student feedback and providing suggestions for improving the course, as well as taking extra time to help students learn the material. Students in particular noted she was kind, flexible, friendly, invested in the learning and performance of the students, as well as being passionate about the material and able to answer every question thoroughly.

Josh Hackney is a sixth-year student in the graduate program in Microbiology. He shares the Divisional Teaching Assistantship Award for his teaching in the undergraduate course Introduction to Virology, BIOS 25287, in Spring 2023. He was cited for his thoughtful and excellent discussion sections, promoting discussion and thought about the course material, as well as clearly and concisely taking students through the logic of the topics covered. Multiple students commented on his willingness to make himself available outside of class to answer questions and help students navigate their assignments.

Mingyu Qi is a third-year student in Public Health Sciences. He shares the Divisional Teaching Assistantship Award for his teaching assistantship in Spring 2023, PBHS 35100, Health Services Research Models. He was cited for being supportive and responsive, having patience with explanations, and being very knowledgeable. He was able to explain the course concepts clearly and keep student interest high. He also gave an incredible lecture, and his contributions to the class were highly valued.

The BSD teaching prize was established in 1996 by the faculty Committee on Teaching Assistants in appreciation and recognition of the enthusiasm and effort that graduate students put into their early teaching experiences. Award of the prize is based on nominations by the students in the course taught by the TA. This year, the decisions were very difficult, as 151 teaching assistants were nominated by their students for the Prize, with 524 total votes; this is a tribute to the dedication of our graduate students as they take on the role of teaching assistant, and illustrating the value placed on teaching in the BSD. Congratulations to all winners!