Applications are closed for 2022.

Scientific Teaching Fellows

Scientific Teaching Fellows is a year-long program for graduate students and postdocs in the biosciences or connected fields. Through training and practical teaching experience as an instructor, Fellows learn about and develop innovative and effective ways to teach science. Fellows also learn how to apply the spirit and rigor of research to their teaching.

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

Applications are closed for 2022 fellows.

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

Scientific Teaching Fellows is a year-long program for graduate students and postdocs in the biosciences or connected fields. Through training and practical teaching experience as an instructor, Fellows learn about and develop innovative and effective ways to teach science. Fellows also learn how to apply the spirit and rigor of research to their teaching.

1. Spring Semester: Learn College Science Teaching

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

Course: INTEGSCI 650 – College Science Teaching

Average time commitment: 2-4 hours/week.

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

Fellows meet on a semi-regular basis 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 for use in a university science education context. The process will be based around cohorts of participants working together to identify learning objectives, and create evidence-based assessments and learning experiences to target those objectives.

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

Average time commitment: 3-6 hours/week – this time commitment is much more variable, as Fellows do not meet every week and will have more or less work depending on their step in the materials development process.

3. Fall Semester: Mentored Practicum in College Science Teaching

Fellows meet weekly for 2hr/week, completing a one-credit practicum course, where they discuss and reflect on their teaching experiences, in real time. This is in addition to actually teaching undergraduates. This course continues the development of science graduate student’s skills in teaching and learning college science courses, by providing a mentored, independent teaching experience. Participants will have the opportunity to see how theories of learning and teaching play out in real instructional settings by implementing and refining instructional activities and then evaluating the outcomes of those activities on the basis of student artifacts (i.e., what students say, do, or create). A particular emphasis will be placed on participants thinking about equity issues in the classroom and creating an inclusive learning environment for teaching diverse student populations. The course also provides participants with frameworks for teaching and managing their own courses, should they pursue academic positions after graduate school.

There are two main courses that Fellows can teach, Exploring Biology and Secrets of Science. These two courses are described in more detail below. Which course a Fellow teaches is determined based on their interests, expertise, experience, and discussions with the WISCIENCE staff.

Course: INTEGSCI 850 – Mentored Practicum in College Science Teaching

Average time commitment: 6-10 hours/week. The fixed time commitment is 2-3hrs/week spent teaching, and the 1hr/week regular meeting of the practicum course. Additional time spent grading, planning, and communicating with students will be more variable. Discuss your participation in this program and its time commitments with your PI (or equivalent) prior to applying.

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 2022 – January 2023, including attending the College Science Teaching course in Spring 2022, regular meetings in Summer 2022, teaching and weekly meetings in Fall 2022, 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
  • A statement of your existing obligations (research, teaching, etc.) and known conflicts from January 2021-January 2022. Include any time periods that you would be unavailable for program responsibilities and recurring weekly commitments when you are unavailable for meetings.

Applications for 2022 are 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. You can learn more about the program and application requirements on the Scientific Teaching Fellows page.

Q: I am in the Psychology program, but have some background in biology. Would I be a good fit for the program?
A: It sounds like this would be a good fit for you based on your background and interests. We limit participation to graduate students and postdocs who work in the biosciences in part because the teaching practicum course is Exploring Biology so the fellows need to have enough of a biology background to teach this course. It sounds like this would be the case for you, even though you are currently in Psychology. We have had fellows in Chemistry and Geography, for example, but their backgrounds include biology.

Q: Can I participate in the program when I am in my first year of my PhD program?
A: Most people who participate in the Scientific Teaching Fellows Program do so later in their program, typically at least after they have completed prelims in their second or third year. I have found that the time commitment works better for people who are a little further along, and I think that fellows are able to contribute more and get more benefit from the program if they participate later in graduate school. I would recommend that you participate in some Delta courses and workshops to get some experience in the next year, and then apply to the teaching fellows program in the future. Delta offers a lot of fantastic opportunities for graduate students at all levels to develop skills and knowledge about effective teaching. Please let me know if you have any more questions. I hope you will consider applying to be a Scientific Teaching Fellow in the future!

Q: I am interested in applying for scientific teaching fellow 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. Since we always have more qualified applicants than spots, we are unfortunately not able to consider applicants from other roles on campus. There are many other excellent opportunities on campus that you might consider, including a variety of workshops and classes put on by Delta. Delta also is home to an internship program that allows you to explore Teaching-As-Research through a partnership with a faculty member. The Teaching Academy is also an excellent resource that aims to promote excellence in teaching and learning. The Teaching Academy is hosting a two-day event in January called the Learning Environment and Pedagogies workshop that you might find to be of interest.

Q: Although I have some teaching experience, I have not participated in many formal teaching workshops and seminars in UW–Madison yet. Also due to the size of the lab I work with, I haven’t had any undergraduate students to mentor. I wonder if this would be an issue for my application?
A: To answer your question regarding teaching experience on the UW–Madison campus, it is not required that you have experience from this institution. It sounds like you have some level of experience in teaching from other places, which is what Dr. Theisen is looking for. If you are interested in attending UW–Madison based teaching workshops, I would encourage you to look into the Delta workshops.

Q: I’m wondering if the 2 credits/semester that we would enroll in for this program meet the following requirements: “300 level or above and are not taken for audit or pass/fail”? I will be a dissertation after Spring so I have to stick to certain grad school guidelines regarding course enrollment (3 or fewer credits for dissertators).
A: The credits are for IntegSci 650 (Spring), IntegSci 750 (Summer), and IntegSci 850 (Fall), so that meets the requirement of above 300 level. Most of the Scientific Teaching Fellows are dissertators so I’m familiar with some of the limitations. The courses have been offered as satisfactory/unsatisfactory and none of my dissertators have had an issue with this in terms of graduate school requirements, but if there is an issue on that end let me know and I can look into this.

Q: Do post docs 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.

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 Exploring Biology, the practicum course that all fellows will be teaching in Fall. So we only accept people into the program who are able to make this commitment.

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 lecture), 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 logistics 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. 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). The teaching fellows are spending about 6-8 hours per week during the Fall semester (2 hrs in class, 2-3 hrs in planning meetings, 2-3 hrs grading and planning), outside of the weeks when they are leading class. Those weeks are a little heavier.

Q: Can you tell me more about the preparation of teaching materials, specifically, is it built up from previously created materials or built from zero? How “heavy duty” is this part of the program?
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 called Exploring Biology. It 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 the Teaching Academy, Division for Teaching and Learning, and Delta.

Q: Is there also a page limit on resume? My current resume is one and a half pages (my teaching experience scattered through the years so I don’t know if I should trim it down to one page).
A: While we do not have a page limit, we would encourage you to highlight the experiences that are most relevant for this fellowship. That is, include the teaching/mentor experience that you find relevant and highlight that.

Application/benefits of program

Q: My own background is in environmental chemistry, and geochemical interactions in natural water systems. It does appear that this program is centered on 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