Teaching Innovations

Current Teaching:

Undergraduate Course Development:

Potential 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: To be determined

 LifeSci2L03- Living Systems Laboratory (2016-present)

  • Collaboration with other Life Science Program instructors and technical staff to develop a modular laboratory course with emphasis on Health and Aging
  • Designed a neuromuscular lab module with the model organism elegans to demonstrate the effects of aging on 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 will occur in January 2017. The design of the course has allowed for collaboration between faculty of various disciplines. It is anticipated that undergraduate students will therefore obtain an interdisciplinary perspective on health and aging in this course.

BIO1A03- Cell and Molecular Biology

  • Collaboration with BioBlend Committee to restructure the course into a blended format (launched Spring 2014)
  • Design of all 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 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
  • Follow this link for a sample lecture (Click on presentation_html5.html in Zip file to open in Browser): https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1584942/IntroBio/Theme%201%20-%20Module%201%20-%20Presenter%20output.zip

OUTCOMES: This project has allowed for the collaboration with a team of instructors (HLW authors) from Harvard, University of Illinois and Brandeis University towards the incorporation of effective teaching tools into our  blended learning model here in McMaster Biology that is novel and never before seen in other Biology Departments across Canada. The BioBlend Team, represented by Drs. Rosa da Silva and Kim Dej have already been asked to give a few presentations on this Blended Learning model at various teaching and learning symposia and workshops.

LifeSci3A03-Health and Disease

  • Redesigned the Health and Disease course such that students can attain a more relevant 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.
  • Sample course schedule with 2015 Modules: FINAL_LS3AO3HealthandDiseaseSchedule_Fall2015
  • Sample lecture: LifeSci_3A03_Fall2015_Lecture10Module2-CoronaryHeartDiseaseAMIwithnotes
  • As part of a long-term plan, I will continue developing new modules to include in the course, with particular emphasis on diseases pertaining to 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 the process.  Each tutorial section develops a Global Medicine Impact Wikipage in which they are highlighting the drug development and distribution of an effected pharmacological therapeutic
  • Sample: LifeSciHealthandDiseaseTutorialDesign
  • Using case-studies, students were 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
  • 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 LifeSci3A03 students. The course re-design allowed for the collaborative instruction of a Medicinal Chemist guest lecturers from Dr. Gunning’s Group at UofT, with focus on rational drug design and therapeutics targeting specific diseases (LifeSci3A03Lecture16Module3_GuestLectureGleevec_Nov12_2015). 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.

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
  • Sample lecture: LifeSci_3M03_Fall2015_Module4Lecture3_WithNotes
  • Students are also challenged to develop a mock research grant proposal given the various microscopy and cellular/molecular biology techniques that are presented throughout the term

OUTCOMES: Throughout the duration of this course, students are able to attain a critical understanding of experimental techniques and design approaches that can be taken to answer complex questions pertaining to the  biochemical and biophysical interactions that occur within and between cells.  Students enjoy the applied nature of the course and find that it contributes to other courses they are concurrently taking.

 LifeSci4P03-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 (Fall2015-LifeSci4U03CourseOutline)
  • In this more intimate classroom environment, I have the opportunity of guiding students not only through an understanding of the molecular factors that underlie various diseases, but also provide them with an opportunity to build upon their communication skills through oral and written components.  This support is provided to my students as I give them a sample seminar (with accompanying handout) at the start of term, and tips pertaining to how to best improve their presentation and written communication skills (SampleSeminarLifeSci4U03SampleSeminarLifeSci4U03_ClassHandout).  Students also complete a final literature review as a final reflection of their learning progression throughout the course.  A draft is submitted to which I provide extensive feedback.

OUTCOMES: The course has now been renumbered as a level 4 course LifeSci4U03.  The first offering was to a class size of 20 students.  The class size has now doubled to 40 students per offering.

Graduate Course Development:

BIO780-Advanced Microscopy Course (First offered Winter 2015)

  • Upon being hired at McMaster University, 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 (Course Outline: Fall2015-BIO780CourseOutline)
  • I have taken the lead as course coordinator and instructor (other instructors include: Drs. Deda Gillespie, Roger Jacobs, Bhagwati Gupta and Kim Dej)
  • The course will continue to be offered annually

Undergraduate Pedagogical Innovations:

Undergraduate Cell Biology Lab

  • This undergraduate cell biology and microscopy laboratory was established in Spring 2015 in collaboration with Dr. Kim Dej, Alison Cowie and Ryan Belowitz. The facility will be 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 worked 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.
  • Most recently, I have contributed to the acquisition of addition funds for addition microscopy tools that can be added to the lab space in collaboration with Dr. Ana Campos and Dr. Kim Dej (ASF_LearningWithImaging)

OUTCOMES: As of January 2015, even as the lab was still being established, 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 will continue to be offered on a yearly basis 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, as of Spring 2015 with enrollment of up to 25 students. 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 will be the new home of modules for various courses, including MolBiol3M03: Developmental Biology (~60 students per term), BIO2D03: Plant Biodiversity and Biotechnology (~150 students per term), and BioPhys2S03: Explorations in Biophysics (~40 students per term). The Cell Biology Laboratory space will also be utilized by a new Neurophysiology Laboratory Course in the upcoming Neuroscience Program. The Undergraduate Cell Biology Laboratory will also be a space that is utilized year-round by students engaged in independent and team-based undergraduate research projects (~25 per term).   In addition, we anticipate that the Cell Biology Laboratory will have the capacity to host workshops and other short courses offered in the summer, and could be a resource for Mini-U and Shad Valley activities. Overall, we anticipate that the Cell Biology Laboratory will be a heavily utilized facility.

Applied Learning Lab for Undergraduate Research Excellence (ALLURE)

  • In collaboration with Dr. Kim Dej and with FWI funding (FWI-ALLURECentre2014), we have 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 goverened in collaboration with research faculty, and the mentoring of skills, critical thinking, and research methods come from Dr. Dej and myself. We anticipate that ALLURE will be a significant focal point for undergraduate recruitment and will be featured at Fall Preview and May@Mac events.
  • The ALLURE lab will also be used to enable the design and testing of innovative and exciting new undergraduate laboratories and modules that are directly linked to courses in Biology and the Faculty of Science. We have already established collaborations within the Department of PNB (through Dr. Deda Gillespie and Dr. Nikol Piskuric) to host a neurophysiology lab course within ALLURE over the next few years.

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). This colony is now maintained by all research students working on the project. To date, I have mentored 6 students who have been investigating the integrated cardiovascular and immune mechanisms of these insects. Two students, Irtaza Tahir and Ryan Peters, have most recently attend the Insect Biotech Conference (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. Irtaza and Ryan are currently working towards the publication of one of two manuscripts which will be submitted in 2016.

Biological Illustration Suite

  • Established the Illustration Suite (in collaboration with Dr. Kim Dej) with support from the McMaster Academic Science Fund (Biological Illustration Suite – ASF Fall2013) 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 (i.e. Artwork by Student Phebe Li for the Scientist). Currently, we are in the process of establishing a mentoring relationship with Imagineering Media Services (Toronto, Ontario) to develop workshops (for example with emphasis on: Flash, Photoshop, Java, careers in illustration etc) that will further aid in the professional development of students in the Biological Illustration Suite.