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Graduate Student Learns the Ropes

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Yi Lam, of the Department of Nutritional Sciences & Toxicology, has already had more than a taste of teaching. The Ph.D. candidate has taught as a graduate student instructor (GSI) each semester during her five-year program, although only one semester is required.

“All graduate students in the department take a course in the theory of teaching during their first year. 10 graduate students get their feet wet serving as GSIs in Introduction to Human Nutrition, which attracts more than 700 undergraduates a year,” she said.

GSIs lead discussion groups of 25 students. They must sit in on the professor’s lecture, develop one or more week’s worth of material, lead discussions, prepare and grade exams and provide one-on-one counseling to students. With so many students to manage, most GSIs in this introductory course are responsible for three discussion groups at a time.

“It’s easy to make teaching relevant in nutrition, because you can always find everyday life examples––it’s not like molecular and cell biology,” she continued.

“We tend to pick topics that interest students, such as fad diets, supplements for athletes, sugar substitutes and other current and sometimes controversial issues.”

Although Lam enjoys teaching, she plans to focus on research in an academic institution or in industry after she graduates this spring. She is currently exploring the anticancer effects of soybean proteins.

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