Teaching Innovations

Current Teaching:


Undergraduate Course Development:

 BIO3P03- Cell Physiology

Redesign of Lecture Content, Tutorials and Homework exercises

  • Incorporated a biological model that is focused on throughout the duration of the course
  • Specifically, I redesigned course lectures such that students can now learn concepts pertaining to membrane dynamics, transport across membranes, equilibrium, electrical properties of cells, neurotransmission and synaptic integration, along with the diseases of the nerve and motor unit using the neuromuscular control of mobility as a model of focus. With this new model, students were able to better appreciate how biochemical and biophysical mechanisms regulate the functions of and interactions between two different cell types (neural and muscular) during the control of locomotion
  • One of the most positively impacting components that was introduced, was the incorporation of calculation-oriented in-class activities during lecture
  • Course tutorials were re-designed to better complement and align with in-class lecture material. This went hand-in-hand with my creation of standardized training sheets and answer keys for all TAs in the course, in addition to standardized Powerpoint presentations that were utilized by all TAs during tutorials
  • Designed and incorporated simulation-based activities that enabled students to use the neurophysiology software MetaNeuron to understand the basic and advanced principles in the course
  • Created new homework exercises that better complemented the novel course model, and reinforced student learning of lecture and tutorial material

Status: BIO3P03 was re-developed from 2018-2019 and is now in the fully new course format as of Fall 2019


ISCI2A18-Drug Discovery

  • Re-designed and implemented Drug Discovery Module in the second year course for the Integrated Science Program at McMaster University
  • This drug discovery module is now more interdisciplinary, combining the disciplines of cell and molecular biology, organic chemistry and physiology
  • The Module runs for 6 weeks, and includes a total of 30hrs of interactive and active learning-based classes that I have created and implemented. In addition, I have designed a project-based lab that runs over the course of the term, where students experience the drug discovery process first-hand through in silico modeling of drug-target interactions, in vitro testing of drug-target effectiveness, and carry out an evaluation of in vivo effects of drugs on physiological processes in a model organism
  • Created and implemented Drug Discovery Film Showcase where students create videos to convey the manner in which a medicinal drug is able to be used for off-label purposes, to target malfunctioning cell signaling pathways and alleviate the symptoms associated with disease progression
  • This new interdisciplinary approach not only focuses on the process of drug discovery for medicinal purposes, but also the benefits of drug discovery for basic science research purposes.

Status: First Offered Fall 2018


Design and Offering of New Course-

                                     Sci2M03: Engaging your world-Science for the Global Citizen

  • Applied for and attained funding ($70,000) to design and offer this new blended learning course for science and non-science majors.
  • Course designed in collaboration with Drs. Kim Dej, Chad Harvey, Sarah Symons, Science Media Lab, Student Research Partners and Project Manager: Jessica Knox
  • Course design is centered around encouraging students to make informed decisions on scientific news that they hear on the day to day. In the present climate, where societal norms, political platforms and social responsibility are increasingly challenged, students are encouraged to approach questions pertaining to science with a critical lens
  • Students are provided with instruction on some basic scientific principles, confidence in interpreting data, and an ability to engage in discussions that are founded on evidence rather than opinion

Status: First Offered January 2018


Design and Offering of New Course-

                            LifeSci3L03- Laboratory Methods in Life Sciences

                            Theme: Laboratory in Comparative & Human Development Lab

  • Designed in collaboration with Kim Dej, Ryan Belowitz, Sunita Nadella and Student Research Partners
  • As a third year lab course, this course was designed to build upon the skills acquired in LifeSci2L03 and other second year lab courses
  • Course is divided into 4 modules, and uses model organisms to understand human development
  • This interdisciplinary course was designed to best complement the current course offerings in the Faculty of Science at McMaster, potentially attracting students from other departments as well

         Status: First Offered September 2017

OUTCOMES: The pilot offering of the course was successful. We are currently in the process of developing an Open-Access Atlas of Histology using images acquired by students in the histology modules of the course.


  Proposed new Sex, Gender and the Genome course (Proposed Spring 2016)

(Designed in collaboration with Ben Evans, Rama Singh, Juliet Daniel, Andre Bedard & Ian Dworkin- Department of Biology; and Karen Bird- Faculty of Social Sciences)

  • Proposed the creation and launch of an interdisciplinary Sex, Gender and the Genome course that can best complement the current course offerings in the Faculty of Science at McMaster, and will be of interest to both students in the Faculty of Science and also attract students from other faculties.
  • With nearly identical human genomes between males and females (with exception of the X and Y chromosomes), this course will broaden student perspectives as to the meaning and significance of these differences, and how this can influence our scientific and cultural understanding of maleness and femaleness.
  • Status: not approved


Design and Offering of New Course-

LifeSci2L03- Living Systems Laboratory (2016-2017)

  • Designed a neuromuscular lab module with the model organism elegans to demonstrate the effects of aging on the cell and molecular mechanisms that coordinate motility and neurotransmission at the skeletal muscle.
  • Assisted Dr. Nikol Piskuric with the design of a laboratory module on the neurophysiology of young and aged crickets

OUTCOMES: The inaugural offering of the course occurred during Winter 2017. The design of the course has allowed for collaboration between faculty and staff of various disciplines. It is anticipated that undergraduate students will therefore obtain an interdisciplinary perspective on health and aging in this course.


LifeSci3A03/3AA3-Health and Disease/Human Pathophysiology (2014- present)

  • Redesigned the Health and Disease course such that students can attain a more relevant and integrated understanding of the aetiology, epidemiology, pathophysiology and treatment of various human diseases.
  • The course is broken down into 4 main modules (20 lectures that I created in total) focusing on Cardiorespiratory Diseases, Neurodegenerative Disorders, Cancer and Neglected Tropical Diseases. As part of a long-term plan, I will continue developing new modules to include in the course, with particular emphasis on cellular and molecular mechanisms that drive disease progression in all organ systems of the human body, along with investigating the success and pitfalls of associated therapeutics.
  • Designed and implemented biweekly tutorials focused on the process of drug development and distribution which is simultaneously utilized to help students investigate the various professions that are involved in these processes.
  • Students also engage in teaching and learning exercises that mentor them towards science communication towards a broader audience. This is accomplished through a course-wide WikiArticle that students write, highlighting the drug discovery and development process of a multi-purpose drug. In addition to a written communication platform, as of Fall 2018, I have implemented a 3-minute Film Fest Video competition that enables students to convey the manner in which a medicinal drug is able to target malfunctioning cell signaling pathways and alleviate the symptoms associated with disease progression. The Inaugural Film Fest will take place Nov 22-Dec 5, 2018 at McMaster University.
  • Using case-studies, students are also introduced to the process of designing targeted disease therapeutics with the goal of minimizing side effects.

-Invited Medicinal Chemist guest lecturers from Dr. Patrick Gunning’s Group at UofT

-Invited Medical Advisor guest lecturer from Glaxo-Smith Kline Pharmaceuticals

-Launch of “Teaching with a Tweet” (Twitter) to help develop student scientific literacy in the digital age ( https://twitter.com/@tweetdrd )

OUTCOMES: All modules are very well received by students in this course. The course re-design allowed for the collaborative instruction of Medicinal Chemist guest lecturers from Dr. Gunning’s Group at UofT, with focus on rational drug design and therapeutics targeting specific diseases. The invited guest lecturer from Glaxo-Smith Kline provided students with a perspective of alternate career paths in science, while also teaching the process of drug patenting, marketing and distribution. As a long-term outcome, I can anticipate that if a large enough repository of modules are created, this course can possibly be offered as an online course in the Summer to facilitate distance education which could be a possible additional source of revenue for the McMaster University Faculty of Science.


Design and Offering of New Course-

LifeSci3M03-Cellular Dynamics (First offered Fall 2013)

  • Created this course in collaboration with Dr. Kim Dej
  • Emphasis of course pertains to the biophysical and biochemical principles that underlie various dynamic cellular processes
  • Students were also challenged to develop a mock research grant proposal given the various microscopy and cellular/molecular biology techniques that were presented throughout the term


LifeSci4P03/4U03-Mechanisms of Disease (First offered Winter 2014)

  • Created this course and developed the curriculum to provide students with the opportunity to understand current research on how cell signaling pathway malfunction results in disease pathogenesis. Students also considered how targeted drug therapeutics act on various cell signaling pathways to help alleviate symptoms and treat various diseases, while considering off-target side effects


BIO1A03- Cell and Molecular Biology (2013- present)

  • Collaboration with BioBlend Committee to restructure the course into a blended format (launched Spring 2014)
  • Design of all integrated online and applied in-class lectures in collaboration with Dr. Kim Dej (with feedback from committee members)
  • Creation and recording of 20 online lectures (modules); now implemented and used in the course
  • Creation of concept maps and active learning exercises for use in review sessions; animations as supplementary tools and applied lecture sessions (many concept maps and animations in collaboration with authors and illustrators of How Life Works (HLW) textbook, Macmillan Publishing)
  • Narrator for all online lecture podcasts
  • Recording of each redesigned online lecture

OUTCOMES: This project has allowed for the collaboration with a team towards building a blended learning model at McMaster Biology that is novel and never before seen in other Biology Departments across Canada. I have given many presentations on behalf of the The BioBlend Team with regards to this Blended Learning model at various teaching and learning symposia and workshops (Gordon Research Conference, Maine USA; Queen’s University, Kingston ON; Online and Blended Learning Symposium at McMaster; Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, Sherbrooke QC).


Potential new Human Embryology course (Proposed Fall 2013)

  • Proposed the creation and launch of an undergraduate Human Embryology course that can best complement the current course offerings of the Department of Biology and Life Sciences Program. The course would outline human gamete formation, fertilization, normal and abnormal fetal development within a cross-disciplinary context, while also focusing on relevant medical therapeutics and technologies.
  • Format would be a fully lecture-based course

Status: To be determined


Graduate Courses:

         BIO780-Advanced Microscopy Course (First offered Winter 2015)

  • Upon being hired, I proposed to design and offer an Advanced Microscopy course in collaboration with other Faculty of Science faculty members
  • The course covers the theoretical and practical applications of various microscopy techniques
  • I have taken the lead as course coordinator and instructor (other instructors are: Drs. Deda Gillespie, Roger Jacobs and Bhagwati Gupta)


Undergraduate Pedagogical Innovations:

Undergraduate Cell Biology Lab (2014- present)

  • This undergraduate cell biology and microscopy laboratory was established in Spring 2015 in collaboration with Dr. Kim Dej, Dr. Roger Jacobs, Alison Cowie and Ryan Belowitz. The facility is available to all undergraduate students and their laboratory and research projects across the Faculty of Science.
  • Since the Department of Biology attained the University Fund from the Office of the Provost at McMaster, I was appointed as the faculty member that coordinated the costing, negotiations, ordering and installation of all equipment in the Undergraduate Cell Biology Lab in the Department of Biology. I also work with Zeiss Microscopy to facilitate the training of technicians, TAs and other faculty users of the facility on the various types of microscopes installed in the lab.
  • I continue to provide support and training to all students and staff who utilize the space.

OUTCOMES:  As of January 2015, a graduate course, BIO780: Advanced Microscopy Techniques, was offered for the first time with demonstrations and hands-on learning taking place. With an initial cohort of 10 students, the course continues to be offered every other year and is open to all science graduate students at McMaster.  The Department of Biology has since offered a new laboratory course, MOLBIOL 3D03: Experimental Approaches in Cell Biology.  In this intensive lab course, students characterize morphological properties of cultured cells and observe changes in cell behaviour in response to normal signals, toxins, and environmental cues.  Due to the vast array of microscopy tools available in the Cell Biology Laboratory, this lab has been the home of NEURO3E03: Neuroscience Lab, a course offering in the new Neuroscience Program at McMaster University and the capstone laboratory course LIFESCI 4CM3: Foundations of Disease States Inquiry Lab.   The Undergraduate Cell Biology Laboratory is also a space that is utilized year-round by modules from other undergraduate courses.  These include BIO1A03: Cell and Molecular Biology, BIO2C03: Genetics, BIO3VV3: Laboratory Methods in Molecular Biology, LifeSci2L03: Living Systems Laboratory and BIOPHYS3D03: Origin of Life.  Students engaged in independent and team-based undergraduate research projects (~25 per term) are also frequent users of the Cell Biology Lab.   In addition, the Cell Biology Lab has been a space where we have offered workshops and other short courses throughout the year in association various community partners.


Applied Learning Lab for Undergraduate Research Excellence (ALLURE) (2014- present)

  • In collaboration with Dr. Kim Dej and with FWI funding, I have more formally launched an undergraduate laboratory space (ALLURE) housed in the Burke Science Building as designated undergraduate independent research lab space. Within ALLURE, both Dr. Dej and I have placed specific emphasis on discipline-related undergraduate research excellence, mentoring and enhancing scientific literacy.
  • Students in ALLURE are involved in team-projects focused on genetics, cellular and molecular biology, cellular physiology, and systemic physiology. The scientific direction of these projects is at times governed in collaboration with research faculty, and the mentoring of skills, critical thinking, and research methods come from Dr. Dej and myself.  This is also the laboratory where Dr. Dej carries out her Nematode Diversity Project work, and where I have established my undergraduate research program focusing on integrated cardiac and immune processes in pest insects such as the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).
  • Within the ALLURE lab, we also design and test innovative and exciting new undergraduate laboratories and modules that are directly linked to courses in the Faculty of Science.
  • On May 26, 2015 I lead the organization of an Open House to formally launch both the Undergraduate Cell Biology Laboratory and ALLURE (http://dailynews.mcmaster.ca/article/new-labs-to-be-a-game-changer-for-undergraduate-learning/ ).  It was a very well attended event by McMaster faculty, staff and students.  Pictures of the event were taken by the Science Medial Lab and have been included as part of McMaster University promotional and recruitment material.

OUTCOMES:  As of Fall 2014, I have established the Stink Bug Project in the ALLURE lab.  This project required a year to build-up a sustainable breeding colony of the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB).  The colony is now maintained by all research students working on the project.  To date,  I have mentored 5-6 students per academic year who have been investigating the integrated cardiovascular and immune mechanisms of these and other agricultural pest insects.  While mentoring students in their authentic research experiences, I also support and prepare them to attend various conferences throughout the year.  Students have been very successful during their presentations.  For example, two students, Irtaza Tahir and Ryan Peters, attended the Insect Biotech Conference in June 2016, and won the best presentation award for long and short oral presentations respectively.  This is an excellent achievement given that the competition in this category was comprised primarily of graduate students from many universities across Canada and the United States.  Students are encouraged and supported to submit their research for peer-reviewed publication.  Manuscripts are currently in preparation.


Biological Illustration Suite (2014- 2017)

  • Established the Illustration Suite (in collaboration with Dr. Kim Dej) to provide undergraduate students with the opportunity to build a scientific illustration portfolio. This is especially advantageous for students that would like to pursue a career in biomedical or scientific illustration.

OUTCOMES: Thus far, students that have participated in the Biological Illustration Suite have contributed to providing images for use in many courses, designed posters, and aided faculty with website design within the Department of Biology, along with developing illustrations for popular science magazines and journals (i.e. Artwork by Student Phebe Li for The Scientist Magazine, Artwork by Dilshaayee Prabaharan for the DailyNews at McMaster and the Journal of Experimental Biology). Currently, Dr. Dej has taken the leadership on this project and is moving forward with her Visualizing Science initiative within the School of Interdisciplinary Science at McMaster. In the interim, I continue to support students who are interested in producing illustrations for courses and research labs in the Faculty of Science.