Teaching & Mentoring
It is my philosophy that the classroom should be a place where students can learn biological concepts and apply what they learn in an envioronment that fosters collaboration. My aim is through inquiry-based learning to prepare students to share and apply their knowledge and ideas on conservation and human health, not only in my classroom, but in their communities and beyond. I believe that students with the skills to think broadly and engage with emerging technologies will be highly valued in the workforce. Likewise, professionals will want students who can connect basic biological principles and apply them across multiple disciplines and fields. I utilize a range of inquiry guided learning techniques in my teaching and below are examples of courses I have taught, evaluations, and my experieces with undergraduate mentoring.
NC State University: Course instructor for Applied Ecology/Biological Sciences course: Conservation on Islands (AEC295/BSC 295) a two hundred level course with a broad range of undergraduate students across multiple disciplines. This is a course I developed that explores different island environments, biogeography, and the cutting edge of science that is trying to prevent extinctions on islands. Course is taught in a lecture/discussion manner with several interdisciplinary speakers attending. Assessments are in the form of quizzes, written reflections, and a final project video.
NC State University: Laboratory Instructor for: Bio 106 Biology in the modern world laboratory. This is an introductory lab for non-majors designed to complement the lecture portion of the course. This is a bi-weekly laboratory course where students engage in inquiry based labs. I have added to this course by designing my own slides, quiz assessments, and personal experiences. In addition, I have helped edit and made changes to the laboratory manual. I have typically taught six sections of the course per semester while also helping the lecturer(s) with various duties when necessary.
NC State University Honors course: Ethics of Biotechnical Communication.
This course I co-designed with a colleague in the field of communication. The goal of the course is to enable students to explore questions related to the ethics of biotechnical communication. Throughout the semester, we integrated in-depth discussion of technical approaches to genome manipulation with humanistic inquiry into the ethical stances that guide approaches to communication. The course featured a series of real-world case studies. Students had frequent opportunities to refine their public speaking skills and to engage in discussion with scholars of science, communication, and ethics. Here is a sample of a student's final project for the course.
North Carolina State University: Laboratory Instructor for Biology for Science 181 & 183
I have taught both of these semester long laboratories that meet weekly. As the laboratory instructor I designed my own slides and quizzes as well as lab practicums that were given as forms of assessment. I have applied my own knowledge and expertise where relevant and have guided students through experimental design and how to write a laboratory report.
Teaching Assistant for Herpetology Course: Zoology 542. This is an undergraduate/graduate course designed to supplement the lecture section. Here I was responsible for preparing the laboratory specimens, presenting curriculum and lending help with local species recognition and taxonomy. I was responsible for helping to design and grade laboratory practicals and I led several state wide field trips with other trained herpetologists. Unlike traditional herpetology labs that only use preserved specimens for species recognition we also incorporated other forms of assessment including live specimens, identifying species by call, and species distribution maps.
East Coast Polytechnic Institute: Anatomy & Physiology I & II These are required courses for the Diploma in Practical Nursing. For these courses I designed all my course materials and exams. Students learned anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, and the pathophysiology of common diseases and disorders. Inquiry based learning methods and real world case studies were commonly employed. With mini labs that went over the scientific process and the application of scientific principles.
East Coast Polytechnic Institute: Environmental Biology Instructor For this course I designed my own curriculum and laboratories. This is a course for non-science majors where we discussed anthropogenic influences on the environment. Students brought in and we examined local environmental situations such as the quality of nearby water sources. For this course, students presented on a famous naturalist of their choice and conducted their own research experiments that they designed.
For reflection I often ask students for self-reflection by post-exam surveys. For written assignments I often employ self-designed rubrics for grading essay responses. I also reflect myself and will analyze exams for frequently missed questions. Below are some statistics and comments from my teaching evaluations. I feel evaluations and reflection are important to see how courses can be improved upon for the future.
"I really enjoyed Megan Serr. I thought she was a very upbeat person. She knew biology well and she really liked it. She was very helpful outside of the classroom, especially responding to emails. I would love to have her for another lab in the future."
In addition to teaching I have had the opportunity to mentor several undergraduate students. I believe strongly that when I mentor students they should not only learn biological research skills but also skills that will help prepare them for their future. When I take on an undergraduate student they first are trained in proper laboratory safety and animal handling techniques. Once acquainted and familiar with proper laboratory procedures students then begin to assist in collecting data and eventually to conducting their own experiments. I have guided several students through the process of writing a research grant and all of these grants have been funded. For these projects student designed their own research project, collected data, and performed statistical analyses. I then have students present their work at local conferences and incorporate their work into papers that are published. Below are two examples of research grants that I personally oversaw and mentored students through.
Gopalakrishnan, M., Serr, M., Dunn, D., Godwin, J. 2017. Examining the nesting behaviour of wild and laboratory mice. NC State Godwin Lab Meeting, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Heard, N., Serr, M. Godwin, J. April 25, 2017. Reproductive Compatibilities of Farallon Island Male Mice. NC State Undergraduate Research Symposium, Raleigh, North Carolina.