Ornithology GTA

BIOL 5750/6750; Spring 2016 and 2017

Geoff has taught an Ornithology course at Auburn to undergraduate and graduate students for more than 20 years, but a comprehensive lesson plan for the weekly three-hour lab sections has never before been developed. In Spring 2016, my labmate Anna and I created a cohesive series of lectures, activites, quizzes, hand-outs, and assignments that are aimed both to improve student learning and enjoyment in lab and to provide a cohesive foundation of coursework for future GTAs. In Spring 2017, I continued instructing and designing new lessons--that time, on my own!


Topics covered in this lab course included: the identification of Alabama bird species from photographs, study specimens, sound (for a subset of species), and live individuals in the field; major internal organs and external topography of birds; preparation of museum study specimens from carcasses; point counts and collecting census data; birdwatching techniques; field notetaking; assessing coloration of birds from photographs to test basic hypotheses; and, using field methods to capture and band birds, and study breeding biology and territoriality around nest boxes.

Principles of Biology GTA

BIOL 1021; Fall 2015 and 2016

I led three (and co-led one) two-hour lab sections for Auburn's introductory biology course for students within science-oriented majors. I led short lecture-style introductions before guiding 40 students through independent, hands-on activities and laboratory methods; I also administered and proctored exams and graded homework. The material we covered in lab included mitosis and meiosis, the scientific method, population biology, electrophoresis, DNA extraction, respiration and photosynthesis, genetic counseling, cell types and organelles, and enzymes.

Communication in the Sciences instructor

NSF REU in Biosystems Engineering; Summer 2015

NSF REU in Computational Biology; Summer 2016

These NSF-funded REU programs recruit 8-12 diverse and high-achieving undergraduate students from around the U.S. to the Auburn campus to gain hands-on experience working with graduate students and professors on an independent research project. One component specially built into both of these REUs is a twice-weekly course on the many professional skills of technical writing and presentations, sponsored by members of the writing center.


In 2015, I co-led the Biosystems Engineering course in its third and final year, along with my writing center boss, Dr. James Truman. In 2016, I led the Computational Biology course in its first year. I developed lectures and activities to stimulate student-motivated discussion of the "on paper" aspects of scientific writing, posters, and PowerPoints, as well as professional expectations for tone, content, and style. While the REU students completed their independent research projects with their mentors, we worked to foster their development of one-minute "elevator pitches" of their research, short PowerPoint oral presentations, and a final poster presentation of their REU results. Our primary goal was to help these talented students take ownership of their mentor-sponsored research by finding their own voices in writing and presentation.

Writing Center Consultant and Graduate Coordinator

Miller Writing Center; Fall 2013-Spring 2017

I have always enjoyed writing, and I applied to the position with the interest of strengthening my own technique while building teaching skills as a one-on-one tutor.  The MWC's tagline is "All Writers, All Writing," and my experiences were just as varied as I'd hoped--I assisted students with papers ranging from a discussion of the history of Roman architecture, to an analysis of a pop culture music video, to a Civil Engineering Ph.D. dissertation!

In addition to one-on-one writing consulting, I served on hiring committees each semester to evaluate and interview new applicants, and I worked to boost staff training for working with technical writing. I also launched Auburn University's now-yearly NSF-GRFP workshop, featuring a panel of past winners and reviewers as well as interactive personal statement guidance. In Fall 2016, I transitioned from writing consulting to working more explicitly with our writing consultants, and I led several weekly meetings with a subset of staff to further development and training. These meetings included ongoing training about the mechanics of being a writing tutor as well as discussions of key texts surrounding social issues with clear applications to our work (e.g. the myth of "standard" English, and the "proofreading trap"--or lack thereof--of tutoring English language learners' writing).

My time in the writing center was absolutely pivotal to my development as a well-balanced academic and multidisciplinary instructor. When I someday gain my own professorship, I would like to spearhead movements toward implementing science writing and tutoring workshops (and perhaps classes, if I’m lucky) to help boost undergraduates and graduate students toward success in their fields.