TA Spotlight – Nathaniel Moyes

(Photo source: Nathaniel Moyes)

I’m Nathaniel (he/him) and I’m a 2nd year MSc student in Dr. Katie Marshall’s lab.I grew up in Kingston ON, and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area before high school.

I completed my undergraduate degree at a small liberal arts school in Minnesota called Macalester College, where I majored in Biology and minored in Geography.

My research focuses on how intertidal invertebrates survive freezing cold temperatures. I study proteins that help the animal survive by manipulating how ice crystals grow.

Intertidal zone at Kits Beach (Photo source: Nathaniel Moyes)

My work involves a little bit of local field work, some genetics, and watching things freeze and unfreeze in a variety of different ways. That last part is slightly more exciting than it sounds.

I am currently TAing BIOL 204 (Vertebrate Structure and Function) for the second time, and have also TAed BIOL 205 (Comparative Invertebrate Zoology).

What do you most enjoy about being a TA?

My favorite part about being a TA is seeing students get more comfortable in a lab environment. I think that when students take lab classes for the first time, science seems like this inaccessible field reserved for geniuses in lab coats, and they are often scared to make mistakes or ask questions. Watching students get comfortable being in a lab environment and most importantly, getting comfortable screwing up, is super awesome to see.

What has been an interesting outcomes of your TA experience?

Before I got here, I thought TAing was just going to be sitting at the back of a lecture hall and grading things. As soon as I learned what my job really was, I got extremely nervous. I had never formally taught anything in my life and I hate speaking in front of people, so naturally I felt extremely unprepared even though I knew the content. Not only am I more comfortable speaking to crowds, but I’m more comfortable putting myself in situations I wouldn’t have found myself in 2 years ago.

How has your unique background influenced your TA experience?

I am extremely fortunate to have gone to amazing schools throughout my life, where I have always been in small classrooms with a ton of hands-on instruction from my teachers. From this, I know that the only way to make students enjoy class is if teachers treat their students as mature adults, and show a genuine interest in both the material they are teaching, and the wellbeing of their students.

What is your teaching philosophy?

I believe that the best way to teach is to be yourself. Students can always tell when you are trying to be something you are not. If you aren’t being true to yourself, how can you expect students to be honest with you?

If you love dad jokes – make dad jokes! Right before my students took their 205 lab final last term, I told a terribly unfunny dad joke and out of 80 students I think I got one chuckle, but I regret nothing!

Me and a red rock crab at Stanley Park (Photo by Emily Black)

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I try to take advantage of all of the outdoor adventure opportunities Vancouver has to offer. In the winter I am skiing as often as I can, and in the summer I like to rock climb (seemingly like everyone else here). My first time climbing outdoors was in Squamish last year, and I quickly got addicted.

Recent noodle batch (Photo source: Nathaniel Moyes)

I also love to cook and try out new things in the kitchen. I tend to get fixated on perfecting one dish, and then once I think it’s good enough I find something else to fixate on. I am currently trying to perfect my handmade pasta.

What are your plans following graduation?

I am once again in the position where I am graduating soon and I still have no idea what I want to do. The difference is that this time around I know that that is OK! I have figured out that I like doing a whole bunch of things including research, teaching, and exploring the natural world. In an ideal world I get to do all of those things AND get paid, but for now I will try to find a job that covers one or two. All I know is that for now I will be taking a break from school, and only time will tell if I come back!

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