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Scientific Teaching Fellows

Take your teaching to the next level as a Scientific Teaching Fellow in WISCIENCE

Are you a graduate student or postdoc in a bioscience-related discipline, considering a career with a teaching component? 

WISCIENCE Scientific Teaching Fellows is a unique year-long program for graduate students and postdocs in the biosciences or connected fields that offers hands-on experience with research-based and inclusive teaching as an instructor (not a TA!). Through coursework and practical teaching experience in an undergraduate course, Fellows participate in a supportive community of colleagues and collaboratively develop innovative and effective ways to teach science.

Scientific Teaching Fellows is part of the Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching.

Applications for 2023 fellows are now closed. Next recruitment cycle begins Fall 2023.

The Scientific Teaching Fellows program is a professional development program that offers graduate students and postdocs in-depth preparation for careers teaching college-level science.

The program takes a unique approach, integrating training in college science teaching with practical teaching experience, all with an explicit emphasis on inclusive, research-based teaching approaches. Fellows learn about research-based teaching approaches the first semester, apply them the next semester as they design instructional materials that engage students in active learning, and then finally collaborate to teach a UW-Madison undergraduate biosciences course the final semester. Fellows benefit from peer support and mentoring as they build their skills in all aspects of teaching.

Applications open annually in the fall semester. There are no course prerequisites, but experience as a teaching assistant OR participation in workshops/trainings/courses related to teaching is recommended.

The program gives Scientific Teaching Fellows the opportunity to:

    • Gain in-depth training in research-based teaching methods
    • Serve as an instructor and gain first-hand experience designing and teaching a first-year biosciences course
    • Become more effective supporting a broad range of students, addressing issues of diversity and inclusion in teaching environments
    • Develop instructional materials that encourage active learning, and test them in an authentic teaching setting
    • Experience all aspects of teaching, from developing learning outcomes to managing a classroom environment to grading
    • Join a community of peers who care about teaching and mentoring

The Scientific Teaching Fellows program is a professional development program that offers graduate students and postdocs in-depth preparation for careers teaching college-level science. The program takes a unique approach, integrating training in college science teaching with practical teaching experience, all with an explicit emphasis on inclusive, research-based teaching approaches. 

The program is divided into three phases where the fellows first Learn about scientific teaching, then apply what they learned as they Prepare to teach a course, and finally Implement the course they designed by teaching a real undergraduate course as instructors.  

Review program expectations and discuss your participation in this program with your PI (or equivalent) prior to applying. 

1. Spring Semester: Learn College Science Teaching (Learn)

Fellows meet weekly for two hours, completing a one-credit seminar course where they learn about and experience research-based teaching approaches. The course covers the fundamentals of learning theory and practical strategies for teaching college-level science courses, while also developing community around this shared experience. The cohort works together to learn the core themes of scientific teaching (active learning, assessment, and diversity) so that they can make informed decisions about their teaching in the future.

Course: INTEGSCI 650 – College Science Teaching

    • Scheduled for Thursdays 9-11 am in Spring 2023

Average time commitment: 2-4 hours/week.

2. Summer Term: Instructional Materials Design for College Science Teaching (Prepare)

Fellows meet regularly to design instructional materials for the course they will teach in the fall. This time is designed to provide a practical application of pedagogical knowledge through the development of instructional materials that will be used in a college-level science course. Fellows will work together to design instructional units where they are responsible for identifying learning objectives, and creating evidence-based assessments and learning experiences to target those objectives. There is also a focus on incorporating inclusive teaching principles that support diverse learners into course curricula and teaching methods.

Course: INTEGSCI 750 – Instructional Materials Design for College Science Teaching

    • Weekly meeting time is TBD for Summer 2023. The Teaching Fellows Summer Intensive is scheduled for July 10-11, 17-19 from 9:00 – 1:00 each day.

Average time commitment: 4-6 hours/week. This time commitment is much more variable, as Fellows will have more or less work depending on their stage in the materials development process. Regular meeting times will be scheduled around participant availability, with several weeks off to allow flexibility with other personal and professional obligations. In addition to regular meetings, participants also participate in a retreat, the Teaching Fellows Summer Intensive, where they demo units, discuss feedback, and develop course plans.

3. Fall Semester: Mentored Practicum in College Science Teaching (Implement)

Fellows continue development of their skills in teaching college-level science courses as they participate in a mentored, collaborative teaching experience. Fellows serve as the instructors for a UW-Madison undergraduate biosciences course where they implement and refine instructional activities. They are able to see how theories of learning and teaching play out in real instructional settings and reflect on their teaching experiences as part of a supportive community. A particular emphasis is placed on participants thinking about equity issues in the classroom and creating an inclusive learning environment that supports diverse students. Fellows also gain valuable skills in managing their own courses alongside other professional responsibilities.

Course: INTEGSCI 850 – Mentored Practicum in College Science Teaching

Average time commitment: 6-10 hours/week. The fixed time commitment is 2 hrs/week teaching (Mon OR Wed from 2:25-4:20 pm), and 1.5-2 hrs/week in the regular meeting of the practicum course (Time TBD). Addition time spent grading, planning, and communicating with students will be more variable.

Program Eligibility Requirements

  • Interest in and enthusiasm for teaching, and a willingness to try new teaching approaches
  • Completing the program in its entirety, from January 2023 – January 2024, including attending the College Science Teaching course in Spring 2023, regular meetings in Summer 2023, teaching and weekly meetings in Fall 2023, and compiling a teaching portfolio to wrap up the program
  • Approval from your PI/advisor to participate in this program (you may be asked to provide this approval in writing in the future)
  • Your major field of study involves the life sciences in some way (check with Dr. Cara Theisen if you have questions)

Application Components

  • An online application form with:
    • Your contact and program information
    • A research blurb: You are riding on the bus and the person next to you asks you to explain your research. You have until the next stop which translates to a MAXIMUM OF 150 WORDS. How do you explain what you do?
  • A resume or CV that includes:
    • Teaching experience (specify your role/responsibilities for each course)
    • Research and mentoring experience
    • A list of any courses, trainings, or workshops that you have taken related to teaching
  • A personal statement (1-2 pages) that addresses these topics:
    • Your career goals
    • Why you are interested in participating in this program
    • Your ideas on what is important in undergraduate teaching and learning
  • Your availability and existing obligations (please see Program Components for details)
    • Please provide a statement describing your existing obligations (research, teaching, etc.) and known conflicts from January 2023-January 2024. Include any time periods that you would be unavailable for program responsibilities and recurring weekly commitments when you are unavailable for meetings or teaching. 
    • Also provide your availability for the following:
      • Spring 2023: Your availability to participate in College Science Teaching at the currently scheduled time: Thursdays from 9:00-11:00 am.
      • Summer 2023: Your availability to participate in the Teaching Fellows Summer Intensive from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm on July 10-11, and 17-19. 
        • Note: Applications will still be considered from individuals who are not available at these times. However, applications may be prioritized based on availability depending on the number of applications. 
      • Fall 2023: Your availability to teach on EITHER Monday OR Wednesday from 2:25-4:20 pm.

Applications for 2023 fellows are now closed.

What past Teaching Fellows have to say about this opportunity:

“I use the skills I developed in the Teaching Fellows Program daily. This was one of the most valuable things I could have done as a graduate student. It made me a competitive applicant for tenure-track positions…. It also gave me access to mentors who supported me and encouraged me to pursue tenure-track positions where teaching and research were of equal importance.

“The Teaching Fellows program “changed the way I thought about education and research. I’m truly thankful that I was able to learn pedagogy theory with the teaching fellows program, and I still refer back to frameworks of thinking that I initially learned during my training. To my surprise, learning to teach helped me organize and communicate my research better.”

Eligibility and credit questions

Q: I am interested in the program, but I am in a field of study outside Biology. Am I eligible to participate?

A: The teaching practicum will be in a first-year course called Exploring Biology. While the course isn’t designed to give students a foundation in introductory biology concepts, it is organized around biology topics (selected by the fellows) and emphasizes major conceptual themes in biology (evolution, structure and function, energy and matter, information flow, systems). If you were a teaching fellow, you would be required to teach these concepts to the students and to engage them in a topic that fits under the umbrella of ‘Exploring Biology’. If are up for this challenge and feel like this is something you could do, you would be welcome to apply. It would be helpful for the review committee if you could address this in your application personal statement so we can understand how you would be able to do this since your current area of study is outside of the biosciences. We have had fellows participate in the past who are from disciplines beyond the biological sciences, but have some background in biology. You can learn more about the program and application requirements on the Scientific Teaching Fellows page.

Q: Can I participate in the program when I am in my first year of my PhD program?

A: Yes, it is possible to participate in the first year of your program. Talk to your PI about when might be the best time in your program. Many people do decide that it works better to participate later in their program, typically at least after they have completed prelims in their second or third year, but this is an individual decision.\

Q: I am interested in applying for the Scientific Teaching Fellows Program to gain more experience in biology teaching. I was a postdoc in the Department of X at UW–Madison and am currently an assistant scientist. Am I eligible to apply?

A: While we are glad to hear that you have an interest in the program, we have to give priority to postdocs and grad students. There are many other excellent opportunities on campus that you might consider, including a variety of workshops and classes put on by Delta and offerings through the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring.

Q: Although I have some teaching experience, I have not participated in many formal teaching workshops and seminars in UW–Madison yet. Is this an issue for my application?

A: It is not required that you have previously participated in any trainings related to teaching. We do recommend that applicants either have some previous experience teaching OR participation in workshops/trainings/courses related to teaching or mentoring. 

Q: Do postdocs get credit for the program?

A: Postdocs do not enroll for credit but are expected to fully participate as if they were enrolled in the class. Postdocs can still list this program on their CV. 

Q: I have another commitment and may have to miss the end of Fall semester, am I still eligible to apply?

A: If accepted, you are required to participate through the end of Fall semester because you will be one of the lead instructors for the practicum course that all fellows will be teaching in Fall. 

Q: I have another commitment and I am not available after the end of Fall semester, would I still be able to participate?

A: For people who are not on campus past the end of Fall semester (into Jan) you would be eligible as long as you would be able to complete program wrap-up tasks remotely.

Q: Do I get paid as a teaching fellow?

A: The Scientific Teaching Fellows is a professional development program, not a paid position.


Q: How many lectures do the participants give? How does the “team teaching” work? Do participants take turns to give lectures and how many lectures will each give?

A: The class is team-taught. Each teaching fellow will be responsible for planning and teaching a 3-4 week-long unit. This will involve planning learning activities (not just lectures), designing assessments, and creating instructional materials. However, your involvement in the class is not limited to these 3-4 weeks. Teaching fellows are in class every class period for the entire semester, helping to facilitate the activities and interacting with students during the weeks the other teaching fellows are leading their units. Other responsibilities throughout the semester include grading student work, communicating with students, and giving feedback to the other teaching fellows on their teaching.

Q: Can you tell me more about the timing of the course we will be teaching? How much time do fellows spend on class during the Fall semester?

A: The teaching practicum will be in a first-year course called Exploring Biology. Class meets on Monday or Wednesday afternoon and fellows attend their assigned section each week.  The teaching fellows spend about 8 hours per week on average during the Fall semester (2 hrs in class, 2-3 hrs in planning meetings, 2-3 hrs grading and planning). Refer to more information on the program components page <link>.

Q: Can you tell me more about what teaching materials fellows are creating? How much ownership do fellows have over what they teach?

A: Each teaching fellow designs their unit with another teaching fellow. There is not a preset curriculum to teach (we want everyone to have the experience of designing their own materials from “scratch”) but there are previously established learning objectives that the teaching fellows are expected to address. For example, each teaching fellow incorporates the major conceptual themes in biology (evolution, structure and function, energy and matter, information flow, systems) into their unit. The main work of planning the unit happens over the summer. The course that is offered in Spring provides training on how to design and teach college-level STEM courses, like the Exploring Biology course fellows will be teaching in the Fall.

Q: How is this program different from the Delta program?

A: The teaching fellows program is distinct from Delta offerings in that the fellows receive training in college science teaching that is integrated with the experience of teaching a real undergraduate course. Teaching Fellows is a year-long program that the teaching fellows go through together that begins with taking a teaching course in Spring, developing instructional materials and preparing to teach over the summer, and then co-teaching the class in fall. The Delta program offers a number of stand-alone seminars/courses and workshops, but they are not connected to the practical teaching experience that the teaching fellows program is.

Q: I think I submitted the teaching fellow application a few weeks ago, but I never got any confirmation or notification. Would you let me know if I have successfully submitted the application?

A: We have received your application and will be notifying everyone who applied of decisions by mid-December. In the meantime, you could check out other opportunities on campus to expand your knowledge and skills in teaching – specifically through Delta and the Center for Teaching, Learning, and Mentoring.

Q: Is there also a page limit on the resume I am required to submit? 

A: While we do not have a page limit, we would encourage you to highlight the experiences that are most relevant for this program. Be sure to include any the teaching/mentoring experience, as well as any trainings related to teaching and mentoring that you have attended. 

Application/benefits of program

Q: My own background is in a field other than biology. Are there benefits of participating in this program that expand to teaching in other scientific fields?

A: In terms of the program itself and the benefits of participation that extend to teaching in other scientific areas, the program is divided into three phases: learn (spring), prepare (summer), and implement (fall). The learning phase involves taking part in a class called College Science Teaching, which gives you an overview of scientific teaching and effective practices more generally. This part of the program would easily give you the foundation to apply in any type of scientific college classroom. The prepare phase involves applying what you learned in the spring to the creation of your own course materials for the Exploring Biology class described above. You will be working with another teaching fellow to develop your unit, which you will teach in the fall. While you will be the primary instructor for your unit, you will be team teaching with three other fellows (who also each have their own unit). Again, while this particular course is based on biology, the practical experience of developing and teaching a course is valuable and those lessons can be applied fairly broadly to scientific college teaching.


Cara Theisen

Credentials: Ph.D.

Position title: Director of Professional Development in Teaching & Learning


Phone: (608) 890-4497

Room 104D
445 Henry Mall
Madison, WI 53706