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BioTAP Scholars Cohort Page

BioTAP now has THREE cohorts of BioTAP Scholars!

Each cohort collaborates together over one year, including one face-to-face Research Development Session, to enact research projects that collect and analyze data about GTA teaching professional development. We have been truly honored to receive so many outstanding applications for the BioTAP Scholars program, and are excited to see that interest in this program extends across the US and internationally! We will be selecting additional cohorts each year through 2020, so please keep your eyes open for future rounds of applications.

This pages lists BioTAP Scholar Cohort members from most recent to our initial cohort. For Cohorts 1 and 2, Scholars have provided a brief summary of their project. Please get in touch with them if you want to learn more!

We are pleased to introduce Cohort 3!

  • Shazia Ahmed, Texas Women’s University
  • Mitra Asgari, Cornell University
  • Megan Barker, Simon Fraser University
  • Kimberly Bell, Stony Brook University
  • Frank Castelli, Cornell University
  • Sehoya Cotner, University of Minnesota
  • Deborah Lichti, University of Delaware
  • Ruth MacNeille, Idaho State University
  • Stephanie Madison, University of Tennessee
  • Lorelei Patrick, University of Minnesota
  • Corrie Pieterson, Ohio State University
  • Erin Richard, University of Kentucky
  • Kausalya Shenoy, University of Kentucky
  • Cody Smith, North Carolina State University
  • Stephanie Toro, Universidad de los Andes
  • Natalie Westwood, University of British Columbia


Cohort 2 BioTAP Scholars:






Larry Bowman (larry.bowman at, Yale University

My research focuses on how long and to what degree do short-term interventions for graduate student and post-doc instructors affect self-efficacy. My project also has dimensions of categorizing active learning instructions and inclusivity to correlate self-efficacy with measures of PD topics employed in the classroom. I have more recently joined in a collaboration with fellow BioTAPer Kaleb Heinrich to explore the current knowledge and beliefs about teaching among junior scientists in the Freshwater sciences societies.

Ryan Coker (rcc08e at, Florida State University

My research post-secondary teacher professional development (PD) is informed by literature across K-12 and post-secondary educational research. These literature emphasize closely studying PDs by linking their core design features, how teachers interacted with these features in the PD, how teachers go about implementing the ideas from the PD in their classrooms, and how teachers’ students are impacted by the teacher’s use of ideas and strategies highlighted in the PD. Core to the PD I design and study is engaging instructors of biology lab courses with deep thinking about implementing instructional strategies across planning, instructing, and reflecting on teaching which serve to elicit, attend to, interpret, and respond to student thinking in ways that maintain intellectual rigor on students’ thinking as they grapple with biology content and engage deeply in science reasoning and argumentation.

Melody Danley, University of Kentucky


Stephanie Gutzler (sgutzler1 at, Georgia State University

My research focuses on the role of mentorship in the professional development of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs).   In the Biology Department at Georgia State University, we require our laboratory GTAs to complete a semester-long apprenticeship prior to their first semester of teaching. Historically, this apprenticeship centered around having a trainee “shadow” a more experienced GTA with little guidance (for either individual) on how to navigate these roles as mentor and mentee.  With the help of BioTAP, I developed and implemented a three-tier mentorship model for our trainees.  I am interested in determining whether or not GTAs that participate in receiving or providing mentorship develop greater self-efficacy compared to those that do not participate.   I also hope to investigate the long-term benefits to being mentored as an apprentice in our program and to expand this model to include mentoring through the duration of students’ assistantships.

Rachael Hannah (rmhannah at, University of Alaska, Anchorage

At UAA, there is not any formal Graduate Teaching Assistant training programs, rather it is individualized to the GTA supervisor and course. As UAA’s Biological Sciences department has moved to inquiry and authentic research based undergraduate labs, one of the challenges has been to train GTA’s in the socratic method of teaching. My BioTAP project is to explore how socratic method of teaching training increases GTA frequency of use of socratic method while interacting with undergraduates during inquiry based labs. Ultimately, I would like the GTA’s to self evaluate their teaching using the LOPUS tool and explore if this type of evaluation and reflection can increase their ability to guide students through inquiry/authentic research based labs.

Kaleb Heinrich (kheinrich at, University of Alabama

My project solicits feedback from graduate student members of professional scientific societies to assess their current knowledge and beliefs about teaching. Additionally, I want to know if GTAs have participated in TPD and if they would be interested in participating in TPD opportunities through their respective societies. I hope my findings can be used to inform and promote GTA professional development opportunities within these societies.

Samantha Herrmann, Ohio State University


Amy Keagy (amy.keagy at, University of North Florida

Our GAs are exposed to teaching pedagogy and active learning strategies through the fall orientation and workshops throughout the year. I am interested in understanding the nature of undergraduate perceptions of GA teaching, specifically how they regard active learning practices that may implemented by the GAs as a result of their exposure to new practices.

Rachel Kennison (rkennison at, University of California, Los Angeles

My research questions are: 1) In a TA training course, how do GTA’s attitudes about teaching change over a 10 week time period? 2) Is there the same amount of change in post course 1-year time period? 3) How do changes in attitude about teaching help develop a professional identity? We have gathered 3 quarters of data, and unfortunately have a lower sample size than expected, so we will continue data collection for an additional year. The project uses the same survey interest to compare this TA training course, taught by 2 faculty with 4 other TA training courses taught by advanced GTA’s. We are interested in determining if the messenger matters, and do TA’s respond differently if the course is taught by a peer vs. faculty.

Harini Krishnan (hk12b at, Florida State University

I am a Graduate Student in Science Education at Florida State University. My research context is introductory biology laboratory for majors. My current study is a Design Based Research (DBR) project focused on implementation of a student-centered lesson in order to facilitate student talk to foster student sense-making. Briefly, I am introducing design elements in the curriculum of the introductory Biology lab that foster student talk. I am collecting data in the form of video recordings of the lesson implementation by the Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) and analyzing them from various lenses of discourse.

Shannon Mallison (mallissm at, Wake Forest University

During the past few years, I have been developing a set of new CURE labs using publicly available research data. I am interested in learning more about GTA preparedness and undergraduate outcomes in CURE labs. How do GTA characteristics, such as teaching and research experience, attitude, and knowledge of the CURE subject matter, are associated with positive undergrad outcomes and interest in further research?

Michelle Nugent (mlnugent at, North Carolina State University

My research interest primarily involves improving the student experience through the implementation of well-designed classroom activities and improved pedagogical preparation of teaching faculty and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs). For BioTAP, I conducted a baseline study of how undergraduate students and GTAs perceive the laboratory experience in Introductory Biology, both in terms of strategies that are currently well-implemented and those that need improvement. The study includes a look at student comfort with and reliance on GTA interactions, and GTA reflections on their strengths, weaknesses, and needs as instructors.

Cheryl Pinzone, University of Colorado, Boulder


Katherine Price (katherine.e.price at, Dartmouth College

I am interested in how reframing the TA’ing experience to emphasize the transferable skills gained from teaching affects Graduate TAs’ knowledge of, acquisition of and importance placed on those transferable skills.

Joshua Reid (jwr4k at, Middle Tennessee State University

Joshua’s research centers around the informal and social learning aspects of GTA teaching professional development. His BioTAP research project focuses on the question of “What do the teaching community networks and research community networks look like for biology GTAs in teaching-focused and research-focused institutions?” To answer this question, he uses social network analysis and draws upon sociological and anthropological frameworks.

Seema Rivera (riveras at, Clarkson University

With support from the BioTAP fellowship, I have been researching graduate teaching assistants’ beliefs and views on teaching. While working with my cohort and the PIs of this project, I have narrowed my research to focus on International Graduate Teaching Assistants, their teaching experiences, and the various pathways they take when adapting to a new culture.

Erin Sanders O’Leary (erins ar, University of California, Los Angeles

The goal of my project is to examine the effectiveness of a train-the-trainer model at preparing graduate student instructors to engage in and teach pedagogy aimed at increasing aspects of multicultural competency, which awareness of own identity and biases, knowledge of diverse populations, and skill in implementing classroom interventions that serve diverse student populations. Using items from a variety of validated instruments, I am surveying graduate student instructors as well as the graduate student teaching assistants in their courses to gauge any changes in awareness, knowledge, and skill. I am comparing the impact of the training to those graduate students in courses taught by faculty trained in this pedagogy to determine the optimal teaching method associated with the greatest gains.

Katrina Stewart (Katrina.Stewart at, West Virginia University

I am interested in helping Graduate Teaching Assistants be good coaches in writing-intensive introductory biology laboratory courses. As a BioTAP Scholar, I hope to gain a better understanding of how to teach the GTAs methods of providing effective feedback that help the undergraduates improve their written communication skills. I am evaluating comments GTAs leave on written assignments as well as their responses to surveys about their teaching roles to identify ways to improve GTA training and support.


Cohort 1 BioTAP Scholars:





Linda Fuselier (lcfuse01 at, University of Louisville

I am studying how Graduate Teaching Assistants understand knowledge construction and how this emerges in their classroom practice. Results from this project will be used to inform professional development seminars for GTAs in biology.

Christopher Trimby (trimby at, University of Delaware

The research question for my project is: Does the Teaching Fellows Program increase participant self-efficacy and adoption of scientific teaching practices? There is a new director of the Teaching Fellows Program, as I have taken a faculty position at a different institution, but we are collectively working on a slight variation on this original project idea. We are currently gathering some baseline data on program alumni, and will use this as a jumping off point for then addressing my original research question (as well as some additional topics).

Iglika Pavlova (ivpavlov at, University of North Carolina, Greensboro

As part of the NSF CUR Transformations Project to introduce undergraduate research in all levels of the curriculum, the work in our department has focused on carefully designing graduate TA training before any GTAs teach in the new labs we are developing for introductory biology. To support this reform, we are conducting a preliminary study of GTA readiness for inquiry teaching through a start/end of the year survey and interviews. This will serve not only to prepare our GTA training program, but also allow for faculty participation and buy-in.

Erica Szeyller (szeyller.1 at, Ohio State University

In the Center for Life Sciences Education at the Ohio State University, each of our teaching assistants (TAs) are required to take a 1 credit hour individualized teaching professional development each time they teach with us. My research project focuses on investigating how student-centered, active teaching approaches, and attitudes of TAs change with repeated participation in our teaching professional development course.

Amy Marion (amarion at , New Mexico State University


Alp Oran (aoran at, University of Ottawa

Some members of BioTAP have related anecdotally how faculty view teaching as less important and a distraction from research. My main research question for BioTAP addresses IF and to WHAT EXTENT faculty at the University of Ottawa support graduate student training in teaching and learning. I have worked in collaboration with the University of British Columbia to develop a large survey tool (available on Trellis) that my institution plans to customize before a late 2018/early 2019 faculty-wide rollout.

Erin Shortlidge (eshortlidge at, Portland State University

As a BioTAP Scholar Erin began a study investigating the perceptions of graduate students who teach course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs). Through this work her lab completed an interview study conducted with CURE GTAs nationwide that will serve as pilot data for a larger proposal on GTAs and CUREs.

Adam Chouinard (chouinard at, Oregon State University

I am an instructor at Oregon State University, and I have been developing new methods to directly assess how GTAs apply skills and knowledge from weekly teaching professional development (TPD) in their own teaching. To evaluate this, I am using a combination of pre- and post-term surveys, student evaluation data (of GTA-led labs), written GTA reflections, class capture videos (coded via LOPUS), reflective video statements, and (eventually) program exit interviews. The goal is to (1) assess the effectiveness of our departmental TPD program, but also (2) explore and communicate ways to integrate multiple approaches to evaluate the effectiveness of TPD for graduate students. (As an aside: I have found BioTAP extremely helpful to motivate and support me in undertaking this TPD research!)

Jeanetta Floyd (jholley2 at, Georgia State University


Michelle Serreyn (ac3042 at, Wayne State University

I started with an idea to use an on-line modular workshop format to deliver GTA TPD the summer prior to the fall term (and provide on-going support) to build a TPD learning community. After some bumps in the road, I am now working on building a team of GTAs and UGs to develop new introductory biology lab exercises. I will provide support and TPD for incoming lab instructors via an internal funding grant.

Nancy Abney (nabney at, University of Alabama, Birmingham

I’m looking at the development of graduate teaching assistants’ beliefs about teaching and learning, specifically comparing their teaching philosophy statements from their first semester through the completion of the CIRTL Associate certificate to see how their overall conceptualization of learning may change from a more teaching-centric or transactional model to a more learning-centric or constructivist model.

Star Lee (star.lee at, University of California, Riverside

I’m interested in learning more about how graduate students think about teaching and how their thinking changes as they progress through a graduate course on pedagogy. The course is designed to teach graduate students the fundamental concepts of pedagogy and how to engage students in the materials. The goal of this project is to evaluate the impact of graduate student participation in this course by analyzing in-class discussions, concept maps, and surveys

Kari Nelson (kari.nelson at, University of Nebraska Medical Center

The purpose of this study is to determine whether varying levels of GTA PD are associated with increased GTA knowledge, confidence, and incorporation of inquiry principles into practice.  At UNO, we are providing about 20 minutes of GTA professional development to our TAs per week; other institutions (Oregon State, The University of Delaware, and The University of Eastern Carolina) are providing varying levels of professional development.  At the end of the academic year, we will compare to one another.   We plan to use the findings to adjust our GTA professional development programs and to make recommendations to others.

Jeffrey Olimpo (jtolimpo at, University of Texas, El Paso

With support from the BioTAP network, Jeff initiated an exploratory study to investigate current professional development (PD) practices employed nationwide to prepare graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) to effectively facilitate course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) in the biological sciences. In addition to identifying existent practices, he is particularly interested in understanding how PD opportunities are (dis)similar as a function of course structure, sub-discipline, and academic level (e.g., introductory vs. upper-division; majors vs. non-majors). Jeff welcomes collaborations with other scholars with similar research interests and would encourage those individuals to contact him at

Samiksha (Sami) Raut (sraut at, University of Alabama, Birmingham

As a part of the BioTAP fellowship, I am interested in determining the perceptions of Native and International Teaching assistants by undergraduates. We are currently piloting this study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Heather Vance-Chalcraft (vancechalcrafth at, East Carolina University

I am comparing three different types of graduate student training experiences, in isolation and combination, to determine the impact on GTA knowledge of inquiry-based labs and student-centered learning, GTA self-efficacy, and GTA classroom practice. I have been using multiple surveys (ATI, STEM-GTA TSES, and Knowledge Survey) to assess GTA knowledge and self-efficacy before and after training. To determine the impact of the training on how the GTAs are actually teaching, I have been conducting at least two classroom observations of each GTA each semester using the Laboratory Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (LOPUS).


We will keep the listserv up to date on Cohort activities, and we hope you are as excited as we are to see the research that emerges from this initiative!

**BioTAP Scholars Acknowledgement Statement: This research on GTA teaching professional development was conducted as part of the BioTAP Scholars program, a component of the Biology Teaching Assistant Project (BioTAP; NSF RCN-UBE grant #DBI-1247938).

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