Instructor Spotlight – Stella Lee

Photo by: Christine Goedhart

Stella Lee is a Sessional Lecturer in the Department of Zoology. She has a B.Sc. (Animal Biology) and M.Sc. (Zoology) from the University of British Columbia and a Ph.D. in Experimental and Molecular Medicine from Dartmouth. Following her one-year postdoctoral fellowship at Tufts University, she returned to UBC in 2017 for her current teaching position.

What led you to pursue teaching?

I have always been drawn to teaching. Throughout graduate school, I actively sought after different teaching opportunities, either within the institution or as a part of community outreach. When I finished my Ph.D., the logical next step was for me to find pedagogy-based postdoctoral positions and was fortunate enough to take part in a project studying novel learning approaches that promote STEM success in students. My ongoing interest for science education naturally led me to my current position here at UBC.

What do you like best about being an Instructor?

That moment when something “clicks”. You can really see it in students’ faces as they transition from “this is confusing” to “oh yes, that makes sense!”. Once students comprehend the concept, then there often is a newfound appreciation for what they just learned, a sense of excitement that I get to share with them. That is the most rewarding experience for me.

How would you describe your teaching style?

Learn by doing. When students actively take part in the learning process, they immediately become more invested. Initially it can be frustrating and a troubleshooting phase is inevitable, especially in laboratory courses, but I believe there is much more gain and satisfaction by the end. This also promotes more critical and independent thinking, which is something I always aim for when I teach, particularly for upper-level courses.

What is something that you are currently doing in your course(s) or in the UBC teaching and learning space that you are excited about?

We recently adopted a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) in the laboratory portion of BIOL331. Students formulate their own authentic research question(s) to test in lab and design the entire CURE project from start to finish, including experimental design, identifying appropriate methods for data analysis, and generating a final written report. This is supported by the UBC Skylight Development grant that allowed me to hire Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) this past summer to help implement these changes in BIOL331.

I also joined the Biology Teaching Assistant Training Program (BioTAP) team as one of the faculty organizers. Since TAs often spend more face time with students than instructors do, I think it is critical to properly support them as they take on the role of teacher in the classroom. Together with Professor Emeritae Carol Pollock and Kathy Nomme, senior instructors Angie O’Neill and Chin Sun, and BioTAP coordinator Rhea Storlund, we offer workshops throughout the year that cover a number of different topics, from marking skills and strategies to offering tips on designing effective lessons and classroom facilitation.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

As much as I am passionate about biology, I also find the need to actively take breaks away from it to maintain a healthy work-life balance. More recently, I started to explore calligraphy and pottery but I always try and add more new items to my to-do (or at least try) list.

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