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Scientific Teaching Fellows

Part of the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching

Applications for 2017 are now being accepted—click the Apply button above. Deadline: midnight, Friday, November 18
An information session and open house for Exploring Biology will be held in October—check back for time and location.

About the Program

If teaching in the biology is part of your career path, it's worth polishing your skills and gaining experience as an actual instructor to add to your resume.

Scientific Teaching Fellows gain special insight into the needs of first-year biology students as they spend a semester developing instructional materials for a first-year course and then teach the course the following semester. Designed for graduate students and postdocs, the program offers two credits per semester for graduate students. There are no course prerequisites, but experience as a teaching assistant is highly recommended.

The program takes a unique hands-on and top-to-bottom approach, combining theory, practice, reflection, assessment, and more practice, while providing experience in all aspects of teaching, including meeting the unique needs of first-year students. Participants build classroom skills and understanding through active learning, with continuous feedback provided by intensive mentoring and peer support. In addition to classroom experience, opportunities are available for mentoring undergraduate peer leaders and facilitating interdisciplinary learning that connects biology to math and chemistry. The program is designed to help participants:

  • Become more effective with a broader range of students, addressing issues of diversity
  • Assess learning outcomes and use data to continuously improve
  • Develop instructional materials that encourage active learning, and test them in a real-life setting
  • Experience all aspects of teaching, from class rules to grading and evaluation
  • Learn about mentoring undergraduate peer leaders and facilitating first-year interdisciplinary learning communities
  • Join an ongoing community of peers who care about teaching and mentoring 
Semester 1: Learn about teaching and create materials

Fellows meet weekly for two hours, completing a two-credit series of seminar courses on evidence-based teaching and instructional materials development. Over the semester, they create original instructional materials for part of a biological sciences course, working with faculty mentors and other partners. 

Average time commitment: 3-5 hours/week; Fellows also meet several times over the summer

Semester 2: Use and disseminate your materials

Fellows complete a two-credit seminar, using the instructional materials they created to team teach a course and then disseminating the materials. Fellows creating materials for the Exploring Biology course (see below) attend a one-hour large lecture and lead a discussion section throughout the semester. Weekly one-hour planning sessions are held in addition to time in class.

Average time commitment: 6-10 hours/week (3-4 hours class time)

Discuss your participation in this program and its time commitments with your PI (or equivalent) prior to applying. 

Exploring Biology (Biology 100)

Teaching Fellows starting during the Spring semester typically design materials for the first-year seminar Exploring Biology, which is taught in the fall. The course is designed to introduce students to the Five Big Ideas, enhance their awareness of career options, help them navigate biology-related degree options at UW–Madison, and introduce them to high-impact learning opportunities, such as study-abroad experiences and undergraduate research. It includes a weekly one-hour large lecture followed by one-hour discussion sections. Fellows work with the course director to develop teaching materials for the course, and each Fellow teaches a discussion section for the entire semester. 

Learning Communites and Peer Leadership

Most discussion sections are part of the Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs) program, which means that students in those sections are also in the same section in two other classes, forming a mini learning community. This model, which is growing in popularity across the country, adds interesting dynamics to the section, as well as providing opportunities to link biology to chemistry and math.

Exploring Biology also has a peer mentor component, another effective teaching tool found at institutions across the country. Fellows may choose to be involved in the IMPACT Peer Leaders program, gaining additional experience mentoring undergraduate peer leaders.

To Apply

The online application will be available from this site when applications are being accepted. Click the Apply button at the top of this page. The application period typically opens in October, and applications are due in November. Q&A sessions for potential applicants are held each fall. If you have questions or want to be notified when applications are being accepted, contact us using the information below.

Chris Trimby

Director of Teaching Fellows Program and Exploring Biology Course
Contact Info

(608) 265-0850


Room 118B

445 Henry Mall

Madison, WI 53706

My work at WISCIENCE focuses on helping graduate students and post-docs in the sciences develop their teaching skills. I teach courses, lead workshops, and mentor Scientific Teaching Fellows during their first independent teaching experiences.

I grew up in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and did my undergrad work not too far from here, at Northern Illinois University, before going on to earn my Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of Kentucky in 2011. I realized fairly quickly that I didn’t enjoy doing bench research, but I was fortunate enough to be in a department that supported graduate students to develop skills and interests in teaching.

Despite my training, however, my first full-time teaching position—as a lecturer at the New Jersey Institute of Technology—felt akin to being tossed in the deep end of the pool. Luckily, I had fantastic cohort of new lecturer peers in my department, and we were able to learn and grow together to become better educators.

Now I help arm future educators with the tools to be successful from day one of their teaching careers. Having experienced first-hand how vital it can be to have a peer group to work with, I strive to help  aspiring faculty develop that same sense of community support around their teaching.