Instructor Spotlight – Pam Kalas

Photo source: Pam Kalas

Pam Kalas is a Senior Instructor in the Departments of Botany and Zoology. She earned her Licence en Biologie and her Diplôme de Biologie at the Université de Genève before coming to UBC to complete a PhD in Genetics. She also earned a BA in Adult Education at the University of the Fraser Valley.

Pam has been involved in several different UBC programs, including BioTAP and the Student Directed Seminars, where she served on the Advisory committee and as a faculty sponsor. Pam is also a Profs-in-Commons, an Integrated Science program mentor, and she recently served as Director of the Combined Major in Science (CMS) Program.

Pam has taught a number of courses in the Biology and Science One Programs, including BIOL 121, BIOL 140, BIOL 234, BIOL 334, BIOL 335, BIOL 337, BIOL 463, and the biology component of SCIE 001. She was recently awarded the UBC Killam Teaching Prize for demonstrating excellence in teaching.

What do you most enjoy about being an instructor?

I think there isn’t a single thing that I can point to and say “that’s my favourite thing”. It is the combination of interacting with many different people, many different personalities and ways of thinking, sharing with them material and ideas that I find super interesting, getting to see how these different people think about the subject matter, how they work with each other, where they take things during a lecture, and the continuous learning that comes with the process. After every lecture I find that I have learned something new, and that together we have created something, no matter how small. I also enjoy having to keep up to date with the field in which I am teaching, as well as with best pedagogical practices and tools.

How would you describe your teaching style?

Maybe I would say “collaborative”, in a sense that everyone in the class has a role to play in everyone else’s learning – I may be the designer and organizer of the lessons, provider of educational/informational resources, and general supporter, while the students are the “doers”, the “implementers” who teach themselves and the rest of us.

What is something that you are currently doing in your courses that you are excited about?

Assignments and projects that turn students into “producers” of scientific information or biology-related work. For example, as an assignment the Fall 2019 BIOL463 course students developed (excellent!) Wikipedia articles, which have now been viewed thousands of times.

What is a memorable anecdote from your own undergraduate experience?

For a virology lab, neither my lab partner nor I had read the lab manual, plus we arrived to lab late, missed the intro, and had absolutely no idea what it was all about. So, we decided that the best course of action was to follow the protocol absolutely to the letter. We got data, numbers, and we had no idea if it was good or bad, or what it was supposed to look like, but when we showed it to the prof, he said that it looked very suspicious because data never come out so perfect, and we surely must have made it up! Academic misconduct! Unacceptable! Only after we demonstrated in great detail how really clueless we were did he believe us, smiled, and then launched into a lecture about how irresponsible it is to come to lab unprepared, especially working with viruses. (I still have no idea at all what that lab was about).

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I enjoy being outside (preferably in or near some body of water, and preferably with friends), reading, playing with my cat, trying new/different kinds of foods, and napping (see below).

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

I am a world-class napper. I can (and will!) nap any time, anywhere – and I greatly enjoy it.

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