Dr. H. Dail Laughinghouse
Teaching is one of the most rewarding parts of academia with the possibility to share one’s experiences and knowledge with the next generation of scientists. With all new graduate students and postdocs, I find it vital to get to know and respect them as individuals to be able to guide and support them through their academic process. As each student and postdoc is unique, with their own strengths and challenges, my first action is to sit down with them so that we have a mutual understanding of what they want to achieve with their program and my expectations. This allows us to create a plan of action with clearly stated outcomes, agreeing on what activities are required to accomplish these goals, and how to measure if these goals are being accomplished in their unique research timeframes. I find this outline helps them organize and achieve the greatest possible success in their research and educational processes. However, they also understand that this outline will evolve and change as they progress through their studies and research, and we then re-evaluate and update their outlines.
Teaching can come in many forms. In formal classroom settings, exercises provide a base of knowledge to engage in active and collaborative learning. In my lab, students are then able to integrate these skills into their own projects, collaborative projects, and working with the community, following my mantra of ‘learning by doing’. I have seen that it is important to set clear goals, connect research to the students’ interests, apply appropriate levels of challenges, and provide the correct amount of good feedback. I encourage my students to have their own ideas, critically analyze these thoughts, while supporting them to become independent thinkers to achieve their personal and academic goals. In addition, it is important to bring concepts from the field into their academic process, thus I involve them in my extension program.