Experience Internships: Teaching Bio at UI

Because we are a STEM-heavy community at Honors (I mean you all, not artsy me, of course), I think many of you will find this particular piece of great interest. Madeline here took an opportunity to intern in a teaching position for a class that many of you have taken or are currently taking. Let’s see how this leadership role affected Madeline’s Honors education and professional skills. -KK


In the fall semester of 2016, I completed an Advanced Teaching Internship with Dr. Brenda Leicht and University of Iowa’s Foundations of Biology class. The internship lasted 15 weeks, and I enrolled in it as an Honors Internship under the course number HONR: 3160. I attended the Foundations of Biology laboratory prep session every week with Dr. Leicht and the graduate teaching assistants. At the prep sessions, I reviewed the week’s lab activities, how to set up and clean up for lab activities, how to use and teach methods for using lab equipment, and provided feedback about the labs to the instructors. In addition to the prep sessions, I also attended the same lab section each week, where I helped with lab setup, material and equipment issues, led group discussions, and helped answer student questions throughout the lab. I wrote reflection pieces after assisting in a laboratory, informative pieces before I assisted in certain laboratories, concept questions to ask students, and completed other general reflection surveys to receive a grade for my experience.


My experience gave me several opportunities to practice professional skills such as reflection writing, scientific writing and observations, public speaking, teaching and mentoring, and biological and scientific laboratory techniques. If I decide to work in a research lab, I have this additional experience and a solidified knowledge of basic biological concepts and laboratory procedures. Teaching and reviewing class material required me to think about biological concepts in multiple ways in order to explain them, as every student understands things differently. Sometimes this was challenging, but helping students understand certain concepts helped me understand these concepts better myself. While reviewing material and teaching it, I realized which specific subjects I really liked or didn’t like. I discovered I enjoyed learning and teaching the genetics unit the most, which included chromosome movement, meiosis, mitosis, and fly crosses. My overseeing graduate teaching assistant was involved in genetics research, and I was able to talk about specific projects and what genetics research was like. Now I am interested in taking a course in genetics and possibly participating in research that involves genetics.

Through this internship, I was also able to improve my interpersonal, public speaking, and leadership skills by attending the lab prep session and assisting a lab section. During the prep sessions, I liked engaging in the collaborative efforts of the graduate teaching assistants, Dr. Leicht, and the other interns. During labs, I enjoyed engaging students in lab conversation and prompting group discussion. If a lab group was not working together well, I facilitated group interaction by asking conceptual questions and making sure the group had gone through the lab correctly. My experience taught me that I enjoy teaching and working with others. I was able to show some students different ways to learn the material, for example, by drawing out chromosomes of the fly crosses in color, which is how I prefer to learn the material. It was satisfying to see a student understand something after I showed my way or a different way (besides the lab notebook) to explain it.


This experience was unique in that I was able to see a college class experience from the point of view of an instructor and contributor rather than as a student. I not only had to think about how I understood class and lab content, but I had to think about how I could teach course content to different students. From my experience, I learned to write reflectively, to think creatively when learning and teaching concepts, and how to engage a group of people in academic discussion.


by Madeline Ungs, Junior

Majors: Human Physiology, on the Pre-Med Track

Minors: Dance, American Sign Language


To learn more about what you can do with an Honors Internship, explore our “Experience Internships” category here on Note To Self. If you have questions or ideas about your own internship prospects, contact andrew-willard@uiowa.edu to set up an appointment with the Experiential Learning Director.

Edited by Katie Kiesewetter, Blog Manager


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