TA Spotlight – Evan Hersh

Photo source: Evan Hersh

Evan was born in the San Francisco Bay Area, and majored in Biology and Environmental studies at University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). He first fell in love with plants during his last two years at UCSC, where he was inspired by some truly amazing professors in his Plant Ecology and Agroecology courses. Chasing his newly acquired botanical addiction, Evan went to Lund University (in Sweden!) and acquired an MSc in Plant Ecology, where he studied sexual conflict in Collinsia heterophylla. He then came to UBC for his PhD in Jeannette Whitton’s lab. Evan is currently working on completing his thesis, which is focused on the ecology and evolution of range limits in sexual and asexual Easter daisies (Townsendia hookeri).

Alongside his research at UBC, Evan has been a TA / lab instructor for four Biology courses (BIOL 140, 230, 210, and 324), and has absolutely fallen in love with teaching! He has worked really hard at improving his teaching through professional development opportunities at UBC, and he is the recipient of the 2019 Biology Graduate Teaching Award.

What do you enjoy most about being a TA?

I really enjoy finding ways of clarifying complicated concepts (of which there are plenty in Biology) and communicating them to my students. It’s the best feeling in the world to inspire students and watch ideas “click” in real time, especially after they’ve worked so hard to struggle through difficult material. I also really enjoy learning (in all shapes and forms!), and I continue to learn something new every time I teach.

What opportunities relating to teaching and learning have you been a part of?

I’ve been involved with the BioTAP program at UBC for several years, first as a workshop participant and then as a “senior TA philosopher”. BioTAP provides a great opportunity to learn from other educators at UBC and discuss strategies for improving your teaching or overcoming difficulties. I’ve also completed the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) offered through UBC’s Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology, and attended the Biology Teaching Retreat at the UBC Botanical Garden. Over the summer I attended the Botany Conference in Tucson, AZ, and really enjoyed several talks I saw in the education section, including one on how to use 3D photography to teach botany to undergraduates!

What is something that you are currently doing in the UBC teaching and learning space that you are excited about?

Right now I’m really excited about the digital botanical illustrations I’ve been doing for Seed Plant Taxonomy (Biology 324) on my tablet. We used to do our lab illustrations and diagrams on chalkboards, but we don’t have big chalkboards anymore now that we’ve moved into the new Biological Sciences building, so I’ve decided to try something new! By doing the drawings digitally, I have the freedom to use different “brushes”, colours, layering, etc. to better highlight characteristic floral morphologies and really make my slides pop! It takes a lot of time, but it’s very relaxing/enjoyable and allows me to connect my creative and scientific interests.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I have many hobbies (probably too many) that can easily eat up all my spare time if I’m not careful. I love video games (recently been playing a lot of Nintendo Switch!), reading (Science Fiction and postmodern novels), music (Hip Hop, Jazz, and Reggae), and hiking (with plenty of birding and botanizing).

What is a fun fact about you that people may not know?

I’ve been a semi-professional DJ (mainly Hip Hop) for over 10 years! See you all at the infamous Biodiversity “Huts” Christmas party!

What are your plans following graduation?

I would really like to pursue education, and am keeping an eye out for postdocs and/or teaching positions that involve teaching botany, ecology, and evolutionary biology.

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