PFTF Fellows 2012-2013

2012-2013 Professors for the Future Fellows

Video Capture of Classroom Content

Jeffrey Anderson

Computer technology is changing the rules of higher education. From the Kahn Academy to Coursera and Udacity, the traditional classroom is being flipped on its head. No longer are archaic chalk talks, power points and handouts the best we can offer our talented young minds in higher education. Instead, we now have the power to transform the traditional classroom into a hybrid-learning environment via a host of Internet and computer technologies.

By using tools including video capture of classroom content, at home self-paced assignments, and web-based student assessments, we teachers in higher education can engineer our classrooms to maximize student-learning outcomes for each and every individual student. An important first step in creating such successful learning environments is to become familiar with these technologies in our classrooms.

Here at UC Davis, the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) has teamed up with Academic Technology Services (ATS) to offer guidance, training and expertise to UC Davis faculty members. This support network is designed to assist UC Davis faculty in developing learning environments that are enhanced by computer technology. My PFTF project focused on providing UC Davis Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Scholars the same support in creating digital videos of classroom content designed for hybrid delivery.

This project culminated in a certificate-granting two-part workshop series during Spring 2013. Each participant of this series examined major movements in video content creation, studied a number of best practices for making videos for public distributions and created a 3-5 minute video for classroom and public use. Most importantly, as a group, our participants gained experience with emerging technologies in video content capture during a three-hour recording session in the UC Davis eLearning Studio.

Many UC Davis Graduate Students and Post-Doctoral Scholars will go on to be leaders in academia, industry and government. These scholars will be responsible for teaching and training new generations of students and technical professionals for years to come. By gaining exposure to video content creation tools and digital learning strategies, the participants of this workshop series began their shift into the emerging reality that is sure to shape the future of higher education.

Developing Educational Holistic Approaches to Graduate Student Retention: Managing and Preventing Stress, Anxiety, and Suicide

Rosalyn Earl

In responding to the needs of graduate students who encounter increased stress, anxiety, and depression, this project “Developing Educational Holistic Approaches to Graduate Student Retention,” was aimed at promoting a holistic campus community approach. Researchers cite that growing levels of distress amongst the student body must be combatted by a comprehensive approach to prevention (Drum, et al., 2009). To accomplish this, the project sought to capture a collaborative approach with student body leadership, student affairs administration, and campus counseling and psychological services (CAPS).

The project used a two-fold approach by one, engaging graduate student leadership from the Graduate Student Ally Coalition as a pilot group who would undergo an intensive 4-hour training workshop on April 12, 2013. Secondly, professional staff from CAPS (Shana Alexander, Thomas Roe, and Zachary Ward) met with graduate student leaders who explained how the campus could better serve and support graduate students who are under distress. From this discussion four critical areas emerged, (1) identifying signs of colleagues in distress, (2) learning effective communicative tools, (3) identifying several referral resources on campus, and (4) practicing and role-playing effective skills.

Pilot-Study Results

Identified areas of concerns that were highlighted during the pilot workshop were stress-related incidences due to family obligations, graduate group/advisor relationships, financial difficulties, research obligations, and social isolation. While research data at public institutions show growing concern for anxiety and depressive disorders (Eisenberg, et al., 2007), there are added benefits to utilizing and incorporating what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes as creating “Community Connectedness” as a strategic mechanism for the prevention of poor mental health and suicidal behavior. Moreover, this project highlighted the need for greater connectedness among the graduate student community and the UC Davis institution to develop more preventative measures.

Overall, this pilot project promoted an increased awareness to the importance of mental health and campus support systems. Survey results from the workshop show a need for additional trainings offered. Graduate student leaders wanted to be trained in effectively assisting colleagues in their graduate groups who are in distress and needing direction or resource information. Trainings should be offered twice a year, once in the fall for incoming students and once in the Spring for advanced students. Graduate students who participated in the pilot also voiced a need for CAPS to cater unique services towards the graduate student community as opposed to having workshops open to the entire undergraduate and graduate student communities. More services are needed to effectively address the needs of the graduate student population. With the help of CAPS, The Graduate Ally Coalition, The Graduate Student Association, and the Office of Graduate Studies, I hope a partnership can be formed moving forward that would help to establish these additional needed trainings on a consistent basis for graduate students.

Open Science: Successful, Responsible Use of Social Media to Supplement Academic Research

Austin Elliott and Michelle Fennessey

Social media have become important, widely used avenues for discussion and dissemination of academic research. Such “open source communication” has gained a far greater audience than traditional peer-reviewed journals that were for centuries the primary venue for communicating results. Consumers of open science include scientific communities, policy makers, and the general public, making social media a crucial bridge between academics and society at large. The conventional publication process functions at a glacial pace compared to social media platforms. As a result, some scientific groups are considering innovative methods to supplement how quickly information is broadcasted to larger audiences.

Social media's growing role, paired with the absence of conventional peer-review, makes it important to understand how social media can be used to supplement rather than replace the scientific process.

We held an interactive seminar, “The Promises and Perils of Social Media for Academics,” led by cyber-law ​expert Dr. Jay Kesan, to prepare future scholars in the appropriate use of social media outlets to broaden the reach and impact of their research. After introducing the audience to the value and variety of social media, the seminar considered the ethical and legal boundaries of using social media platforms to disseminate research, and discussed innovative methods currently used within the open science community.

We had several participants in attendance, which included faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and students. The specialties for participants were diverse with representation from healthcare leadership, communications, law, geology, mathematics, business management, and nursing. Dr. Kesan provided an excellent overview of social media as it relates to academic interests. This seminar was timely for many participants as they had many questions about how to manage social media platforms when beginning new faculty positions.

Identifying and Effectively Communicating Transferable Skills Necessary for Scientific Work Outside of Academia

Iara Lacher

Not every student within the higher reaches of academic training has aspirations to remain in academia. Outside of research and professorship positions, graduates are interested in applied fields in environmental conservation, business, the government, consulting, and policy. However, a discrepancy exists between skills that are desirable for applied fields and skills most readily offered in many graduate programs. This is especially true within the sciences, where there is emphasis on disciplinary training and related research skills rather than interpersonal skills, for example. This discrepancy can make it difficult for students to identify and obtain skills relevant for applied fields.

In May, 2013, I provided a workshop for graduate students and post-docs in the sciences based on the above scenario. We discussed which non-academic sectors participants were most interested in (Non-profits, Government, and Private) and identified which skills were already acquired as well as areas for improvement, based on the most desired skills per sector. We discussed how these skills might best be obtained and communicated to potential employers via their C.V.s, cover letters, recommendation letters, and interviews. We worked together to brainstorm additional creative ways to obtain skills depending on the participants' level of graduate training, desires, and abilities.

Reaching Across the Divide: Teaching the Academic How to Speak to the Public or How To Give a 30 Second Elevator Speech

Erin Legacki

In our current society of scientific disbelief current new doctoral students are entering a climate where they not only need to compete within the scientific community but communicate that scientific understanding to policy makers, media outlets and the general public. Now more than ever scientists are required to bridge the gap between basic science and policy, open up the proverbial ivory tower and welcome all inside.

However, our education focuses our strengths on communication through professional publications and discipline specific conferences. Unfortunately, scientific understanding in our society is rapidly declining and graduate students must learn to effectively communicate to a more broad audience. As the economic climate deteriorates and funding becomes increasingly limited the need to efficiently communicate research to a more doubtful audience is critical.

I have created a website on interpersonal communication focusing on communicating research to marketing personnel and the public. This website will offer speaking techniques, resources for more information on 30 Second Speeches, Do's and Don'ts when interacting with the public and good talking points verses inappropriate talking points. Students will be able to access the site and prepare their own 30 second speech about their own research. Techniques such as eye contact, persuasiveness, speed and clarity of communication and directness of communication will be addressed.

Grantsmanship for the Graduate Student: The Art, Science, and Mechanics of Proposal and Grant Writing

Sean McNary

​ The act of research proposal writing is an excellent method of developing and honing experimental ideas and observations into rigorous, hypothesis-driven investigations. When applied to the proper grant application, proposal writing can also convince others of the value of your research and open the spigot of money required for experiments. Grantsmanship is a vital skill for all researchers and aspiring faculty. There are many good sources of information regarding grant and proposal writing. However, these various resources are spread out and not typically written for the lay audience of aspiring principal investigators.

Two workshops were held to introduce and familiarize graduate students and post-doctoral fellows with the grant application process, crafting research proposals, and submitting grant applications. The first workshop focused on the art and science of grant writing. Workshop participants learned about the two major federal agencies funding scientific research, the NSF and NIH, their funding mechanisms and differences between the two agencies. The last section of this workshop focused on strategies for preparing effective research proposals and applications.

The second workshop focused on the mechanics of grant writing. Participants were introduced to the “business side” of the grant submission process. Grant application packages from the NSF and NIH were dissected and compared in areas such as budgeting, direct/indirect costs, senior personnel, and application definitions/terms. Finally, an overview of the UC Davis grant submission process was presented for both fellowship applicants (graduate students and post-doctoral scholars) and principal investigators. The two workshops were well received and attended by a total of 23 graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and university staff from 15 different programs.

Working The Room: How to Design and Execute Effective Research Presentations

Christine "Palmer" Palmer

While considerable energy is put into training students and postdoctoral researchers in research techniques and basic knowledge, an often-overlooked facet of being successful is the ability to communicate research. From qualifying exams to symposium talks to succeeding at interviews for postdoctoral and faculty positions, the ability to design clear slides and deliver engaging and intelligible talks is absolutely essential. Spectacular results and great contributions can be lost to overpopulated data slides or rambling dialog, diminishing the accomplishments of an otherwise worthy researcher. Often students and postdoctoral researchers must learn on their own how to give a presentation simply based off the example that others have set, which may or may not even be a good example.

To address this deficiency, I offered an extended workshop in which participants were given concrete tips and techniques to maximize the quality of research presentations while avoiding common pitfalls that can plague talks. In addition, two award-winning speakers gave demonstrations on successful and highly accessible talks. Participants were then paired with facilitators to work one-on-one on presentations they were preparing, thus they were able to immediately apply what they learned to relevant talks of their own. The workshop was highly attended, with approximately 50 participants from a wide variety of departments.

Using Social Media to Foster Critical Thinking in Interdisciplinary Courses

Isabel Porras

Although students spend increasing amounts of time using social media in their personal lives, this use doesn't often translate to sharing the material being learned in the classroom. At times, social media is at conflict with the classroom (e.g. when students go on Facebook during class.) Rather than banning laptops and smartphones, we should explore ways to engage social media to teach critical thinking skills.

Interdisciplinary courses like those offered in gender and ethnic studies often draw students who wish to understand their lived experiences. The feminist slogan, “The personal is political,” points to the validity of lived experience in knowledge-formation. Social media sites provide an excellent way for students to analyze current events while also practicing a different form of writing. Social media also allows for the sharing of knowledge and helps create dialogue in ways not possible during a 50-minute section.

As a PFTF fellow, I led a three-part workshop series during the Spring 2013 quarter on teaching with social media.

  • March 13th
  • Part 1: Social Media and the Interdisciplinary Classroom
  • April 10th
  • Part 2: Stimulating Discussions with Social Media
  • April 17th
  • Part 3: Developing Creative Writing Assignments

In addition to the workshop series, I have developed a Wordpress blog that provides tips and further resources.

Video Workshop on Time-Saving Strategies for Using Writing as a Learning Tool

Tara Porter

Composition scholars Toby Fulwiler and Art Young (1982) stress that writing is a “tool for discovering, for shaping meaning, and for reaching understanding” (x). While many instructors firmly believe in the powerful effect that writing has on student learning, many also feel that using writing in the classroom requires a time commitment that weighs down their already heavy workloads.

In 2012, I worked with the UC Davis Writing Across the Curriculum program to conduct a survey of 318 instructors across the disciplines at UC Davis. 69% of the UC Davis instructors surveyed indicated that “limited time” was one of the biggest challenges they faced in incorporating writing into their courses. In fact, when interviewing several faculty members here at UC Davis, I found that many knew writing would help improve student learning, but they just didn't feel that they had the time to invest in it.

For my project, I created a video that provides graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members with some suggestions on how to use writing in their courses--without it consuming a tremendous amount of their time. I use information from research in the composition field, as well as suggestions provided by UC Davis instructors across the disciplines to provide instructors with time-saving strategies for using writing in their classrooms. By use of video format for a workshop, I allow time-pressed instructors the opportunity to reap the benefits of a workshop, without having to commit a significant amount of time to attending a workshop. The video will appear on the UCDavis Writing Across the Curriculum Website and can also be visible on YouTube.

Fulwiler, T., & Young, A. (1982). Language connections: Writing and reading across the curriculum. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

R For Dummies: Introduction To Data Description And Visualization In R

Anna Steel

R is powerful, flexible, open-source software created for data manipulation and analysis. Many researchers say that data analysis with R is the way of the future because of its accessibility (it is free), versatility (advanced tools for almost any field, from finance to GIS and genomics), flexibility (the question is not if you can do it, but how), and reproducibility of analysis (through short scripts).

Any graduate student or post-doctoral researcher who works with moderate to large datasets can benefit greatly from the capabilities of this program, and experience with R will strengthen future job applications. UC Davis often offers special courses which utilize R to examine theoretical questions or to teach modeling methods. However, these courses can be inaccessible for students without a background in computer coding languages. To address this need I worked with Dr. Robert Hijmans and fellow graduate student Matt Whalen to offer a 2-credit course during the winter quarter of 2013.

The primary goal of the course was to aid students in mastering the basic structure and commands of R, allowing them to create simple graphics, conduct basic analyses, and learn tips and strategies for efficient use of the program. In addition, time was devoted to ‘decoding' the abundant but dense help resources available to users so students would be able to teach themselves additional techniques necessary for their own work, or for participation in more advanced courses.

With these goals in mind I chose a ‘flipped classroom' design, where the basic content was not delivered in classroom lectures but rather through pre-recorded video-casts which students watched between class meetings. This opened class time to practice the new skills in a situation with maximal support from instructors and peers. Also, by recording content in online videos the course was accessible to a much broader group of students. While forty students participated fully in the course, we had an additional 70 students registered to retrieve the resources through SmartSite. Throughout the quarter we had positive reviews from students, and were able to see numerous individuals apply the skills we were teaching directly to obstacles in their own work. Because of the feedback and enthusiasm from students we plan to continue offering this course in the future.

Ensuring the Future Through Outreach

Wade Zeno

Increasing the amount of aspiring scientists and technologists is crucial for humanity, as this is where the innovations and discoveries that advance society emerge. This is especially important in the United States, where there has been a decline in the proportion of students receiving degrees in STEM fields over the last several decades (Ashby, 2006). Whether it is vaccine discovery or space exploration, a desire to make advancements in these fields needs to be present in order for them to occur. This can be achieved by introducing a younger generation (middle school and high school) to the world of science.

Though there is science in the curriculum, first-hand experience with people who do science related work for a living and witnessing some of the exciting work being done can help inspire a significant portion of students to also pursue futures in STEM fields.

My PFTF project consisted of workshops for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows that discussed techniques for performing outreach. This included discussion of different ideas for activities and ways of engaging students. In addition to this, my workshops provided assistance in communicating research to K-12 students, as well as a means of concisely summarizing research to convey the message effectively and clearly. I also collaborated with another PFTF fellow – Rosalyn Earl – to set up an outreach event at Monterey Trail High School (Elk Grove, CA) where I'll discuss careers in STEM fields with the students.

My workshops received positive reviews from the 30 attendees from 15 different STEM majors. The main things they found useful were learning why outreach is important, receiving practice in clearly writing/explaining their research, and strategies for connecting with K-12 students. Considering this feedback, I feel that UC Davis could benefit from continuation and development of such workshops to help STEM students with communication and involvement in outreach.

Additional Fellow in the 2012-2013 PFTF Class (Withdrew Before Completion)

William Dawson


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