My name is Liz and I want to work with you!
I enjoy teaching and mentoring. I have worked with undergraduate and high school students extensively over the last several years. I believe learning occurs not when a student first hears the information but when they start using the information. Learning takes reflection and practice enhanced through multi-faceted approaches. My role as a tutor is to provide insight and direction to the learning process. After all, not only have I learned the material once but I have also observed multiple people learn the same material. In addition, through my research experience I have implemented the classroom lessons into real life problems.
I enjoy incorporating my research into my teaching/tutoring. I can draw from experiences of commonly misunderstood concepts that cannot be gained from a textbook or other interactive learning modules. Not to say there isn’t value in those activities because it allows students to learn/review in their dominant learning style. My role as a tutor is to provide the most useful resources and help students build the right tools to eventually master the subject.
I am currently a postdoctoral research fellow at UNC Chapel Hill in the School of Pharmacy. I am developing non viral gene therapy systems for treatment of solid tumors. Before this, I earned my PhD in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. There in addition to research I gained an appreciation of nature. I lived near a waterfall and I have hiked several mountains in the Adirondacks! In undergrad, I studied physics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA. I fell in love with the city and physics and math during my 4 years there. I graduated high school from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science which is a residential public high school in Mississippi and frequently ranked within the top 500 best high schools in the nation.
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: University of Pennsylvania - Bachelors, Physics
Graduate Degree: Cornell University - PHD, Biomedical Engineering
painting, weightlifting, hiking, PhDivas Podcast, book nerd
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
I believe learning occurs not when a student first hears the information but when they start using the information. Learning takes reflection and practice enhanced through multi-faceted approaches. My role as a tutor is to provide insight and direction to the learning process. After all, not only have I learned the material once but I have also observed multiple people learn the same material. In addition, through my research experience I have implemented the classroom lessons into real life problems. I can draw from experiences of commonly misunderstood concepts that cannot be gained from a textbook or other interactive learning modules. Not to say there isn’t value in those activities because it allows students to learn/review in their dominant learning style. My role as a tutor is to provide the most useful resources and help students build the right tools to eventually master the subject. I am very interesting in how people learn and I have a lot of experience teaching pedagogy of learning. While at Cornell University, I spent three years teaching graduate students the process of how to teach an engineering course. I also spent over a hundred hours reviewing teaching footage and giving graduate students advice on how to improve. Moreover, I also have experience mentoring and training undergraduates in research. I have mentored over 6 undergraduates in independent research projects. These experiences have been invaluable to shaping my own teaching style and understanding how to meet students at their level to learn the course material.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
In a typical first session I would get to know the student and their academic life. I would assess what their strengths and their interests so I can gauge what types of real-life examples would engage the student most effectively. I would get insight on their classroom setting: what textbooks are they using, how is the classroom structured, and what do the teachers expect from them. This will help me tutor because the last thing I should be doing is instructing students in a way that is counter to how it is being taught/evaluated in the classroom. Beyond that, the lessons begin when the student needs the most guidance, and the first session would be about trying to understand what those weak points lie and making a plan for strengthening them.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
When a student is having difficulty, we could try taking steps backwards. Oftentimes, a concept may be difficult to understand because we glossed over an underlying assumption that may not have been clear. I would try to figure out with the student what is difficult to understand. In addition, this situation would require listening to the student. By allowing the student to think out loud, it will 1) help me understand their problem solving process and 2) help the student focus/reflect on the details of the skill or concept.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
I can help a student become independent by helping them develop a problem solving strategy. One strategy I can use to facilitate this is by "thinking out loud", helping students understand how I set up the problem rather than simply showing them how to solve the problem.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Usually students have a very large goal/reason for getting a tutor: they are looking to get into a great school or scholarship. I would help students stay motivated by setting smaller goals that are more tangible. Sometimes, it's just not a good day. Or week. If the student is normally very motivated, I would probe the student to figure out what is happening to cause the frustration with the student. Lastly, I would try to motivate students with real world examples of why the material being covered is relevant.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension is so important for problem solving and writing alike. If a student struggles with reading comprehension I would have the student read the text aloud and discuss what it means. I would also take paragraphs and using pen/pencils, highlight specific phrases and/or structural patterns that are cues the student can recognize later on.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
I like to warm up by getting to know the student and finding out if we have things in common. Then, I like to start with class material that they are comfortable solving and explaining. This will give me an opportunity to observe how the student thinks, find out what their learning style is and also help the student feel comfortable working with me. I like to get students excited by talking about some of the real-world problems that are fundamentally based on the subject we are working on.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
This is really challenging. It's easier said than done. I would try multiple story angles to relate to the student how the topic is relevant to something they already like. If I can pair something they enjoy thinking and talking about with something they don't like, then that would be the first step to engaging the student and getting them to care about the details of the subject.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Students often "shut down" when they don't understand a topic. She/he may nod in understanding when really, they just want to move on from the subject. One technique I would use to check understanding is to ask the same question in a different way to see if he/she still understands. In addition, having them explain the material to me or solve the equation without my help will allow me to see how much of the information they truly retained.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Positive Affirmation. When a student is doing something well, I make sure that I tell them. When there is something that they didn't understand at the beginning of the session but they do at the end, I make them aware of their progress. I remind the student of where they can be if they keep up the work. Sometimes, when a student thinks they are failing, it can be difficult to see when they make progress. My job as tutor is to reinforce those moments of success.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
To evaluate a student’s needs, I would give them a few problems to solve and closely watch to see what areas cause the most trouble. As an example, some students get the concept but fail at the arithmetic steps, which then lets me know that some basic problem solving drills would be beneficial for the student.