4 BioE Grad Students Win UMD Distinguished TA Awards

Distinguished TA Awards Winners

Distinguished Teaching Assistant Award winners (left to right) Kimberly Ferlin, Sai Ganesan, and Rachel Manthe. Not pictured: John Lin.

Four Fischell Department of Bioengineering (BioE) graduate students–Kimberly Ferlin, Sai Ganesan, Rachel Manthe and John Lin–have received Distinguished Teaching Assistant Awards from the University of Maryland's Center for Teaching Excellence. The awards, presented each May at a formal reception at the Adele H. Stamp Student Union, recognize the contributions and achievements of outstanding graduate instructors.

Kimberly Ferlin, advised by Professor John Fisher (BioE), has served as the TA for Fisher's section of BIOE 340: Modeling Physiological Systems and Lab for the past two years. She says that although she hasn't decided yet whether to pursue a career in academia, the experience has given her "a feel for a future in teaching."

"It was really rewarding to see the students progress throughout the semester," she says. "Programming can be a hard thing to learn, but the students [did] a great job understanding how to write interesting physiological models and presenting their work in an application-based final project." Ferlin adds that it was pleasant to discover that there is always something for her to learn as well: "Many of the students helped teach me new things at the same time I was teaching them." Outside of her duties as a TA, Ferlin mentors undergraduate researchers in Fisher's lab.

Sai Ganesan, advised by Assistant Professor Silvina Matysiak (BioE) and Dr. Robert Blumenthal (National Cancer Institute), enjoyed the relationships that teaching allowed her to build with her students, and says her desire to teach is her primary motivation for seeking a career in academia. As a TA for BIOE 331: Biofluids, taught by Matysiak and Professor Kenneth Kiger (Department of Mechanical Engineering), and BIOE 32: Tansport Process Design, taught by Associate Professor Helim Aranda-Espinoza (BioE), she found herself surprised by how much she learned from the students.

"Not only do I have a deeper understanding of the subjects, but also had a chance to critically analyze and answer questions that I [hadn't] thought of myself," she says, adding that she also gained a new found respect for all of her own teachers. She is currently mentoring an undergraduate student and a student on rotation in her lab, and hopes to be involved in more teaching activities in the future.

Rachel Manthe, advised by Associate Professor Silvia Muro (BioE/Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research), was recognized for her work as a TA in Dr. Idalis Villanueva's (BioE) sections of BIOE 120: Biology for Engineers and BIOE 121: Biology for Engineers Laboratory, two of the department's core courses. Ferlin, who intends to pursue a career in academia, says serving as a TA reinforced her goals.

"The most rewarding part of teaching is seeing students demonstrate their understanding of what you taught them in lecture," she says. "It's really a great feeling when you see them improve and progress over the course of the semester." The job also taught her to be flexible. "Every student has a different learning style, so you have to be able to adapt and explain concepts in a way so that everyone understands," she explains. "Every lecture is different and will not always go according to plan, so teaching definitely keeps you on your toes!"

Published May 22, 2013