TA Spotlight – Amy Kim

Photo source: Amy Kim

Hi! I’m Amy (she/her) and I am from Vancouver, the traditional, ancestral, and unceded lands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), Stó:lō and sə̓lílwətaʔɬSelilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Biology and I am currently a PhD candidate in the Rieseberg lab located in the Biodiversity Research Centre (BRC). I am studying the evolution of species invasions, specifically in the coastal dune species, Cakile edentula (North American searocket) and Cakile maritima (European searocket). I hope to determine if the observed repeated hybridization between the two species plays an important role in their invasion along the coasts of western North America and Australia. I am also curious about how pollinator interaction may influence their invasion pattern and how their population dynamics have changed over time.

This photo was taken during a field trip to Grant Bay, British Columbia where both species coexist and are likely hybridizing. The plant on the left is European searocket and the one on the right is North American searocket.

I have TA’d and guest lectured for BIOL 415 (Evolutionary Processes in Plants) and I am currently TAing BIOL 180 (Thinking Like a Life Scientist).

What do you most enjoy about being a TA?

As a TA, I really enjoy working with students and building real connections with them because they all bring such different and creative perspectives to the classroom. I am continuously learning from them and evolving my teaching, and it feels so special when they can trust me and reach out to me for anything. As well, it feels so gratifying to see them get excited about the course material and understand challenging concepts. I think there is no better feeling than when a student comes up to you to ask questions, discuss your research, and ask how to get involved. I want to inspire students and get people excited about science!

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

I feel very lucky to be a senior TA facilitator for the Teaching Assistant Development and Advancement (TADA) program in the biology department at UBC. I get to develop and facilitate workshops for new and experienced TAs and learn from a wonderful cohort of senior TA facilitators. Recently, I was able to deliver a workshop on equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in teaching, something that I am very passionate about. I have completed the BioTAP program, which is now known as TADA, and it has been great to experience the other side of it. I have also just completed the Instructional Skills Workshop (ISW) offered by the Centre for Teaching, Learning, and Technology (CTLT) and it was an great way to learn how to develop and deliver a lecture that encompasses facilitative teaching and active learning. I hope to continue to refine my teaching skills and participate in more workshops and conferences in the future, and possibly do some research in teaching at UBC.

What is your teaching philosophy?

I believe that building a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment for students to learn in removes the cognitive load and barriers to learning that may exist in a classroom, and in turn, promotes connection and active participation. By creating a safe space for students of all backgrounds to share their ideas and perspectives, it opens new avenues of thinking, which allows students to see beyond their own experiences. An inclusive environment allows students to leave behind the societal burdens they may carry outside the walls of the classroom and permits them to focus on learning. A supportive environment encourages students to try, even if they fail, as we often learn the best from our mistakes. This ultimately instills curiosity and ambition in learners, as they are unafraid to ask questions and try new things. In my experience, when all these aspects are implemented in the classroom, students are far more engaged, curious, and enthusiastic about learning. They are able to fully immerse themselves in the material and actively participate. I hope that I can create these spaces for more students and be their advocate and supporter, as many teachers have been for me.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I really enjoy baking, playing volleyball, hiking, and learning about fungi. I tend to bake a lot of banana bread for my family and friends, as I always have over-ripe bananas to spare, and I really enjoy baking a dessert for any kind of celebration. I try to play volleyball throughout the year, a sport I am really passionate about, and I have been lucky enough to coach a high school volleyball team for the last two years. I really enjoy being out in nature, especially with my friends, so we tend to go hiking a lot together. I have always been very interested in fungi since a second-year course I took in my undergraduate degree, and it has become a passion of mine to identify fungi in nature and learn about them. I really enjoy sharing this interest with others, as fungi are often quite foreign to them.

This is me at the end of the Plain of Six Glaciers hike in Lake Louise, Alberta. The weather was not great, but it was beautiful at the top!

What are your plans following graduation?

Following graduation, I hope to travel for a bit and visit Europe and Asia! I would also really like to pursue a career in teaching and develop courses for universities and colleges that incorporate EDI and active learning. Additionally, I would like to continue to do research for Parks Canada or the government, especially in invasive species management, as I think it would fulfill that research bug in me.

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