A Letter from the Chair
Many faculty members have a story about a teacher who inspired them. Three people immediately come to mind for me: my father, an engineer by training who enjoyed showing me how to use my chemistry set, my fourth grade teacher who arranged for me to attend a special science program for two summers, and a high school chemistry teacher who made absolutely everything fun and later had a role in developing the Science Olympiad. Teachers and mentors from college, graduate school, and postdoctoral training had important roles in shaping my ability to become a successful educator and researcher. This year, our annual newsletter puts the spotlight on graduate education, one of the core missions of our department. I hope you enjoy reading the perspectives of three of our faculty members on teaching.
Faculty members enjoy imparting knowledge to trainees and are engaged in classroom teaching of graduate students in MS and PhD programs as well as medical students. In addition to formal classroom teaching, a lot of time is spent on one-on-one research mentoring of undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The successful launch of a trainee into the career of their choice is a source of pride and satisfaction. The legacy of an educator is often the most rewarding part of being a faculty member.
Our graduates pursue a variety of careers in academia, medicine, government, public policy, biotechnology, law, science writing and other areas. Graduate education is beneficial for many types of careers because it prepares individuals to pose a question and to design a way to address it, to think critically about information, to lead a project and function independently, and to be a life-long learner. Being a graduate student is an intensive apprenticeship that differs in many ways from undergraduate education. The focus shifts from absorbing what is known to learning how it was discovered, the strength of the supporting evidence, the gaps in current knowledge, and how to fill those gaps. Research, at a lab bench or computer or both, requires a re-awakening of curiosity, the development of an independent and questioning spirit, and a commitment of effort. As trainees develop these skills they are rewarded with the thrill of discovery and confidence that grows from significant accomplishments.
I offer my thanks to the many teachers who inspired me and to my departmental colleagues who have devoted themselves to making education at University of Michigan the best it can be.
With best regards,