TA Spotlight – Liam Coleman

Photo source: Liam Coleman

I completed my BSc (major in biology, minor in ocean sciences) at the University of Victoria in 2014. One of the final semesters of my undergraduate studies was spent at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre in Bamfield, British Columbia, where I took field-based marine biology and research courses. It was during this term that I met Dr. Patrick Martone, who introduced me to the wonderful world of seaweeds and, ultimately, became my PhD supervisor at UBC. Today, under Patrick’s direction, I study how the bull kelp, Nereocystis luetkeana, is able to continuously adjust its morphology in order to minimize risk of dislodgement from the substratum by moving water while maximizing photosynthesis. My research incorporates elements of algal and plant cell biology and physiology, evolutionary biology, and biomechanics.

I have worked as a TA quite consistently during my graduate studies at UBC. I have TA’d BIOL 209 (Biodiversity of Algae, Fungi, and Bryophytes) five times, BIOL 121 (Genetics, Evolution and Ecology) twice, and BIOL 332 (Protistology) once. Additionally, I have TA’d two different upper-level phycology courses at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

What do you enjoy most about being a TA?

I love inspiring students to become interested in the courses I TA. It is my experience that students get much more out of a course when they are genuinely curious about the subject matter and I very much enjoy “infecting” people with that curiosity. I try to do this by being (perhaps overly) enthusiastic myself and endeavouring to be both relatable and entertaining to students while I teach.

What has been an interesting outcome of your TA experience?

Being a TA has led to me to become a more outgoing person. The regular public speaking and frequent interaction with students has allowed me to “come out of my shell” to some degree and grow from an initially very shy and quiet individual into a practiced and confident presenter and instructor. This has undoubtedly benefited my research in addition to my teaching by allowing me to communicate more effectively in situations such as academic conferences.

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

I have taken part in an Instructional Skills Workshop offered through UBC’s Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. This was a very useful experience that has improved not only my teaching, but also my ability to present and discuss my research. I would recommend these workshops to other graduate students.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I am an enthusiastic photographer. I primarily shoot nature and enjoy photographing the organisms and environments that I study and teach about. My shots frequently make their way into lecture slides and conference presentations and I am proud to have had a small number of images selected for use on journal covers. I enjoy instances such as this when I am able to combine science with art.

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

I enjoy singing and have been known to attend karaoke nights at local pubs. I have a reputation for performing Adele covers!

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