The Training in Education and Critical Research Skills Program at Tufts has proven to be a valuable opportunity for post-doctoral fellows who want to balance their research with teaching at the undergraduate level. Funding for the development and implementation of TEACRS is provided by a career development program at the NIH, a focused effort to seed academia’s research laboratories and classrooms with faculty and students representing under-represented demographic groups.
TEACRS is based at the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Science and draws researchers from across Tufts University together to train the next generation of academic faculty.
There are only 18 of these programs in the country and the TEACRS Program at Tufts is the only one in New England. “Our school’s location in Boston is a strong asset to the program,” according to its director, Dr. Claire Moore, “because the grant requires the involvement of approved partner institutions, schools with a significant enrollment of under-represented minority students. We have been able to engage terrific partner schools.”
The three local partner schools are the University of Massachusetts/ Boston, Pine Manor College and Bunker Hill Community College. Post-docs who participate in the program are required to spend one semester teaching an undergraduate course at one of these schools.
That assignment has ranged from a Microbiology class with 20 students at Bunker Hill to an Introduction to Biology with more than 350 students at U-Mass Boston.
The undergraduate students in these classes are usually biology majors but, according to Jessica McCready, a TEACRS post-doc who taught at Bunker Hill, few have an image of any health profession other than doctors or nurses. “I enjoyed getting them to shed their pre-conceived notion of what a scientist looks like.”
By contrast, Mark Carlson had the experience of teaching in a 300+ seat lecture hall at U-Mass/Boston. Thanks to the support of his faculty mentor, Mark learned critical strategies and tactics for keeping that large class on topic.
Like those strategies and tactics for the classroom, the TEACRS Program also provides technical training for post-docs in areas that they may not have had to consider before, including grant writing, budget preparation and management, laboratory techniques and conference presentations.
“We take the ‘Critical Skills’ in the program title very seriously,” says Dr. Moore. “Our post-docs are ready for both the laboratory and the classroom.”