I received a BS in Life Sciences and a BS in Spanish from Penn State. As a college senior, I taught weekly didactic recitations and labs in General & Developmental Biology, Biodiversity and Physiology, all of which included scientific writing. For 2 years post-college, I worked as a clinical research assistant at Harvard Medical School before moving to New York to complete my MPH in Epidemiology & Global Health from Columbia. As a graduate student, I was a one-on-one and group tutor for Epidemiology and Biostatistics – the quantitative disciplines of health science. Many of my former students have kept in touch, and since my first teaching experiences, I have always received positive evaluations regarding my personalized commitment to each student, my understanding of science material, and my classroom humor (learning is fun!). This feedback is something that I am proud of and will continue to strive for throughout my career as an educator.
For the past 7 years I have been working as an epidemiologist with the CDC, global NGOs and Columbia University with a particular expertise in infectious disease and maternal-child health in sub-Saharan Africa. My career demands very strong quantitative skills and competencies in scientific reasoning, and there is nothing I enjoy more than sharing that knowledge with the students whom I tutor and mentor. Currently, I am assistant teaching graduate-level public health courses at Columbia, and in my spare time, I like to read literature, cook and eat various cuisines, travel and maintain a fitness routine.
More recently, I scored in the 95% overall on the new MCAT (93rd-99th percentile in all 3 science sections), and will be starting medical school this year (school TBD in March ’17). My strong academic background, years of teaching/tutoring/training experience, achievements in scientific research, passion for working with students, and high scores on the GRE and MCAT qualify me to tutor on a wide range of science subjects as well as test taking strategy and study planning, which I believe are the hallmarks of successful test preparation.
Throughout many years of science education, I have honed my study skills in ways that have drastically reduced study time while improving my core competencies and test accuracy. More so, I have written several competitive admissions essays and thoroughly enjoyed helping applicants refine their college or graduate school personal statements. My ultimate goal is to pay all of this practical advice forward to the next generation of aspiring scientists, physicians and educators for decades to come!
Education & Certification
Undergraduate Degree: Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus - Bachelors, Life Sciences & Spanish (dual-bacc)
Graduate Degree: Columbia University in the City of New York - Masters, Epidemiology & Global Health
Literature, Fitness, Food, Travel
Q & A
What is your teaching philosophy?
Exams are intimidating, but they can also be fun and that is the mentality that I bring to the classroom. I have never, and will never, teach for financial gain; I gauge my teaching success on the success of my students. Unlike many teachers, I focus intently on individual learning styles, which I think are of utmost importance when preparing for and tackling important exams. I enjoy the challenge of teaching and the depth of learning that it demands of the teacher as much as I enjoy watching my students "get it". Teaching and tutoring is a very gratifying and rational pursuit of my own self-interest as well. My learning style is unique, and once I was able to gauge how I learn, I was able to tailor my study technique and materials in order to create a time efficient and highly effective study strategy for the MCAT while working full-time as a global epidemiologist. I want to pay that advice forward to the next generation of aspiring physicians and scientists, many of whom will be my future colleagues.
What might you do in a typical first session with a student?
Gauge the student's learning style, personal motivations, passions, career goals, and intellectual interests. This information informs an individualized study plan or learning template. My sense is that when a student is engaged, comfortable, and interested, understanding of the course material can easily fall into place.
How can you help a student become an independent learner?
Provide the student with external information or didactic tools that are directly relevant to the course material. If a student understands why and how course content is important or relevant to his or her future career plans, an internal locus of control and self-motivation will ensue.
How would you help a student stay motivated?
Consistent engagement, tailoring study plans or activities to avoid monotony, and honest, constructive feedback to boost and maintain confidence.
If a student has difficulty learning a skill or concept, what would you do?
Be persistent! There is a multitude of methods or paths that one can take to arrive at the same conclusion. Learning styles and preferences are as diverse as the student population, so figuring out what works and what doesn't is one of the most interesting and rewarding parts of learning and teaching.
How do you help students who are struggling with reading comprehension?
Keep reading! And read anything and everything, especially material or content of interest. Reading out loud, or varying prosody as you read in your head can really be engaging and has certainly helped me to retain information. It can also help to imagine a scenario where you are having a dialogue with the author -- imagine him or her, the voice, tone, prosody, etc. -- and you may be surprised at how efficient that tactic can work for improving comprehension.
What strategies have you found to be most successful when you start to work with a student?
Develop a trusting and friendly relationship. For me, it is most important that the student is never, ever afraid to ask for help or clarification, to be honest about misunderstanding material, or to express opinions about what is working and what is not. As a learner, it is your responsibility to guide your teacher; as a teacher, it is your responsibility to heed that guidance. Developing that learner-teacher synergy is awesome and fun, but it requires equal input from both parties.
How would you help a student get excited/engaged with a subject that they are struggling in?
Demonstrate the subject/material relevance and how it fits into the student's academic and professional preparation. Everyone has strengths and everyone has weaknesses, so one can never expect to excel in or enjoy everything they are required to learn. Having that understanding, looking forward to the challenge of overcoming that struggle, and having a committed tutor who constantly encourages you helps you to stay engaged.
What techniques would you use to be sure that a student understands the material?
Learn one. Do one. Teach one. After learning a concept, demonstrate it (i.e. practice problem). Then, if you can teach it back, you can be sure the material is well understood.
How do you build a student's confidence in a subject?
Consistent feedback and reassurance to ensure the student understands my full commitment to his or her success; I gauge my teaching success via his or her learning success. I believe confidence falters when a learner feels alone, unsupported, or falsely incompetent. Any learner should feel supported by a tutor and have a sense of teamwork.
How do you evaluate a student's needs?
His or her personal comments and opinions about learning, and I pay close attention to performance details over time. A good tutor should be observant and synthesize all of the student's information -- metrics, scores, qualitative information, body language, and verbal comments -- to adapt the tutoring style to the student's needs.
How do you adapt your tutoring to the student's needs?
Constant student feedback, performance metrics, and the student's personal ambitions or motivations in school or in life. Academic personality plays a huge role in learning styles and motivation, but so does natural talent and previous academic preparedness. If you've taught one student, you've taught one student -- there is no one-size-fits-all in tutoring. That is, perhaps, the most exciting and fun part about tutoring.
What types of materials do you typically use during a tutoring session?
Whichever the student prefers. I rarely use slides unless they are visuals/diagrams. I tend to draw a lot, particularly in cell biology, physics, or biochemistry; the natural sciences are often very visual disciplines and certainly benefit from diagrams and pathways. Some students prefer just talking or brainstorming, preferring to bring his or her own questions, which is great. Others may prefer to do practice problems and work through solutions together. Thus, it would depend on the student's wants and needs and the subject or discipline. For highly motivated students, I love to challenge them with higher-level academic material (research articles, case studies, etc.) to not only engage them but also to demonstrate the relevance of the current material to future academic or professional work.