TA Spotlight – Mary Fossey

Photo source: Mary Fossey

Hello! My name is Mary Fossey and I am currently a TA for BIOL 204. I completed both my BSc (major in Biology and minor in Spanish) and my MSc in Kinesiology at UBC. This September, I started my PhD in Experimental Medicine under the supervision of Dr. Christopher West. Our lab is located at ICORD/VGH and investigates the effects of spinal cord injury on the heart and the lungs.

My PhD is an extension of my MSc study with Dr. West, wherein I studied the temporal effects of spinal cord injury on the heart’s function and structure. In my PhD, I am developing a neuro-protective drug therapy to improve mobility and heart function after spinal cord injury. One of the reasons why I continued in the same lab is the amazing team we have – I am so grateful for my supervisor and labmates. Another reason is that I find research in the field of spinal cord injury both very challenging and fascinating as this condition affects every biological system. Spinal cord injury results in devastating consequences and I hope that my small contributions to the field can one day lead to improving life quality for individuals with spinal cord injury.

I love research but also love teaching, that is why I am so excited to be TAing my favourite undergraduate class BIOL 204. It is my fourth time TAing it and hopefully not the last. The first class I ever TAed was BIOL 363 in 2017, which I also enjoyed very much!

What do you most enjoy about being a TA? 

What I enjoy the most about TAing are the human interactions with the students, my fellow TAs and the instructors. My uttermost favourite thing about TAing is when I am helping a student understand a complex concept via guiding questions. Once the student figures it out by themself and I see the light bulb go on in their head, that is the best feeling. It is a combination of being proud of them and feeling useful.

What has been an interesting outcome of your TA experience? 

Before TAing, I was quite shy and very much feared public speaking. TAing in front of a classroom full of engaging students has greatly helped me grow confident with presenting. Now, I love presenting in front of any sized crowd – especially if it is teaching. It has been quite the reversal and has all been thanks to practice, preparation and challenging yourself (bonus: a friendly audience).

What are your plans following graduation? 

I am not 100% sure of what I want to do after graduation. I still have a couple of years to make concrete plans. However, I without a doubt want to make teaching a big part of my future career. In the meantime, I will work to become the most effective educator I can be. I have been very lucky to have had fantastic teaching mentors from which I have learned so much. In terms of workshops, I have completed the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) and four BioTAP sessions; they have all been very useful. I intend to complete all seven BioTAP sessions soon and once research calms down a little, I plan to start regularly attending CTLT workshops prioritizing the ones related to online teaching.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

If I do have some free time, I spend it with my close friends (although not this past year due to the pandemic). I enjoy skiing, biking, going on long walks and dancing. During the pandemic, I have taught myself how to use a sewing machine and how to knit. I have made many fabric masks and ill-fitting but matching toques for my loved ones.

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

When I was a toddler, my mother worked at a children’s clothing company. I ended up being a “child model” in a couple of catalogues. So, in other words, I peaked at two years of age.


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