CTL Graduate Fellowship for Teaching Excellence

CTL’s Graduate Fellowship for Teaching Excellence program honors graduate students who are dedicated to excellent teaching and is designed to foster conversations about teaching to help graduate students develop as teachers. Graduate Fellows organize and facilitate teaching workshops in their departments and across the university, observe graduate students teaching and offer feedback, and meet regularly as a fellows group to discuss teaching practices.

Candidates for this fellowship must be nominated by their department; the call for nominations goes out to graduate chairs in the spring semester. For more information about the Graduate Fellows Program contact Bruce Lenthall.

2021-22 GRADUATE FELLOWS FOR TEACHING EXCELLENCE

Ada Aka
Psychology

Ada is a fourth-year Ph.D. student at the School of Arts and Sciences and The Wharton School. Ada studies fundamental cognitive phenomena such as how we remember things and make everyday judgments and decisions. She was a Costanzo Teaching Fellow at Duke University, where she completed her undergraduate studies in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Marketing. At Penn, she has served as a teaching fellow for Behavioral Economics (PPE 313/PSY 265), Human Memory (PSY259), and Introductory Psychology (PSY101) courses. In addition to teaching undergraduate students, Ada has extensive experience training and mentoring undergraduate and high school students as a volunteer mentor for PennCAP (University of Pennsylvania College Achievement Program) and Duke Keep Exploring Mentorship Program. Ada is always excited to use ideas from cognitive psychology in her teaching while attempting to deliver foundational knowledge and make it transferable to life.

Natalia Enid Aponte Borges
Earth & Environmental Science

Natalia ((she/her) is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Earth & Environmental Science and is currently part of the Penn Geomicro Lab. Her research involves the physiological characterization of metabolically versatile hydrothermal vent microbes and the enrichment of novel species from these environments. Natalia obtained a B.S. in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras in 2019. She taught biology, botany, and microbiology and tutored science and English at the Center for Urban, Community Entrepreneurial Action in Rio Piedras. At Penn, she has been a TA for the course GEOL-130 Physical Oceanography for two years and has participated in the Penn Lens summer mentorship program for high-schoolers. Natalia is interested in inclusive teaching and learning and has been involved in various DEI initiatives as well. This includes Penn’s URGE Pod (NSF’s Unlearning Racism in the Geosciences), Penn SACNAS (Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) Chapter, and the Netter Center’s SEE scholars (Students for Environmental Equity). She emphasizes inclusive teaching strategies and active learning techniques.

Lauren Bridges
Communication

Lauren is a fifth-year PhD candidate at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her research explores the social, political, and environmental impacts of communication infrastructures with a focus on surveillance and data governance. Lauren has a MA in communication from Annenberg, an MA in creative writing, publishing and editing from the University of Melbourne, and a BA in business from Queensland University of Technology. At Penn, she has worked as a teaching assistant for courses on Political Communication, Media Industries, Media, Culture and Society in China and she has taught a summer course on the Media Industries and Society. In 2019, she was the recipient of the James D. Woods award for outstanding graduate assistant teaching. Lauren is particularly interested in exploring the ways in which contemporary and historical political moments may affect pedagogical practice and strategies to teach across political and ideological divides. 

Alexis Crockett
Neuroscience (Biomedical Graduate Studies)

Alexis is a 5th year Ph.D. candidate in the Alvarez lab at PennVet. Her research focuses on the role of the blood-brain barrier in neuropsychiatric disease using the human genetic condition 22q11.2 deletion syndrome as a model. Alexis completed her Master’s of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge in 2017 and received her B.S. in Neuroscience and Psychology from The Ohio State University in 2016. As an undergraduate, Alexis served as a course assistant for three semesters for Introduction to Psychology, and has since served as a teaching assistant for three semesters at the University of Pennsylvania in the Biological Basis of Behavior program. Her experiences also include being a TA trainer in the summer of 2021 and a graduate assistant for the inaugural Rising Senior Summer Academy through the Penn Office of the Provost. During her four years in the lab, Alexis has also mentored multiple undergraduate and rotating PhD students, and earned the CTL Teaching Certificate in the spring of 2021.

Abigail Dym 
Political Science 

Abigail is in her fourth year of a joint-PhD in political science and education. She researches and engages in political participation, civic education, electoral reforms, and local politics. At Penn, she has taught the Politics of Education Policy to master’s students at GSE and served as a TA for undergraduate political science classes in SAS such as The Policy Process, Classical American Constitutional Law, and Intro to American Politics. Abigail earned the CTL Teaching Certificate in 2021 and was awarded the Penn Prize for Excellence in Teaching by Graduate Students in 2019. She is also a Provost’s Graduate Academic Engagement Fellow with the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, where she builds collaborative learning and teaching opportunities with high school and undergraduate students. Prior to graduate school, Abigail was a social studies teacher and AmeriCorps volunteer.  

Taylor Dysart
History & Sociology of Science

Taylor is a fifth-year PhD candidate in the Department of History and Sociology of Science. Her research focuses on how ayahuasca, a divinatory and hallucinogenic plant-based therapeutic harvested in the northwestern Amazon, became an (elusive) subject of biomedical fascination and frustration throughout the twentieth-century. While at Penn, Taylor has been a teaching assistant for Health and Societies, the People's Health, and Comparative Medicine. In summer 2021, she was the instructor of record for Medicine in History. Prior to coming to Penn, Taylor completed a BA (Honours) in History and Psychology at McMaster University and a MA in the History of Medicine at McGill University. While at McGill, she served as a teaching assistant for classes in the history medicine, Native American history, and women's history, amongst others. She received a Dean's Award for Distinguished Teaching by Graduate Students in 2020. 

Marisa Egan
Cell and Molecular Biology (Biomedical Graduate Studies)

Marisa is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Microbiology, Virology, and Parasitology program at the Perelman School of Medicine. Her research investigates human innate immune responses to the bacterial pathogen, Salmonella. She received a B.S. in Biology with minors in Philosophy, Mathematics, and Chemistry from Saint Joseph’s University, where she discovered her passion for teaching and scientific research. At Penn, she has been a TA for the graduate course BIOM 600: Cell Biology and Biochemistry and for the undergraduate lab course BIOL 376: Microbial Diversity and Pathogenesis. Marisa was awarded the Penn Prize for Excellence in Teaching by Graduate Students in 2021. She also earned the CTL Teaching Certificate in 2021. Marisa is very excited to develop her teaching skills and continue teaching students in the lab and in the classroom about microbes and more.

Sheng Gao
Statistics

Sheng is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the Statistics Department, advised by Professor Zongming Ma. Prior to coming to Wharton, Sheng received a B.A. and a Master’s degree in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge. His research interests include high dimensional statistics as well as analysis of machine learning, reinforcement learning and deep learning algorithms. He has worked as a teaching assistant for both Statistics and CIS Department and was awarded Donald S. Murray Prize for Teaching Excellence in 2020. In STEM classrooms, Sheng has always been interested in creating an active learning environment for students.

Tony Liu
Computer and Information Science

Tony (he/his) is a fourth-year PhD student co-advised by Lyle Ungar and Konrad Kording. He is interested in the intersection of causal inference and machine learning, with projects on healthcare policy evaluation and depression detection through smartphone sensors. He received his BA in Computer Science from Williams College, where he was a teaching assistant and peer tutor across economics, mathematics, and computer science. At Penn, he has completed the CTL Teaching Certificate and is an instructor for CIS 192: Python Programming. He is interested in bringing more process-based and interactive learning techniques to the classroom.

Mercedes Mayna-Medrano
Hispanic Studies

Mercedes is a doctoral candidate in the Hispanic Studies program. Currently, she is writing her dissertation titled “The Melodramatic Mode and The Socio-Economic Problems in South-Andean Narrative (1848-1907).” She has a B.A. in Hispanic Literature from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP). She has an M.A. in Linguistics from PUCP as well. Her areas of interest include 19th Century Latin American Literature, Andean Studies, Decolonial and Gender Studies. She is the co-founder of the Andean-Amazonian Reading Group, which is a space for students within and outside of UPenn to dialogue about Andean and Amazonian topics. Mercedes has been a mentor in the Mentorship Program in the Hispanic Studies Program, and she has taught intermediate and advanced Spanish classes at Penn since 2017.

Jane Robbins Mize
English

Jane Robbins is a doctoral candidate in English, where she studies nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature and material culture. Her dissertation examines the intersections of colonialism, industrialism, and the cultural imagination of water in the early twentieth-century United States. Jane Robbins' teaching interests include environmental literature, poetry, print culture, and disrupting the writing process. She grew up in Athens, Georgia, and received her BA in English and Latin from the University of Texas at Austin.

Paradorn (Joe) Rummaneethorn 
Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering 

Joe is a 4th year PhD candidate in Professor Daeyeon’s Lee lab and part of the Center for Subcellular Genomics, where he strives to engineer new platforms for extraction and analysis of transcriptomes at subcellular scales. He has a deep interest in bridging medicine and engineering to develop new disease therapeutics and diagnostics technologies. Joe was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand before coming to the US to pursue a B.S.E. at Princeton University, where he graduated summa cum laude in chemical and biological engineering with minors in biology and materials science & engineering. Ever since high school, Joe has been involved in and enjoyed tutoring and mentoring, and he remains deeply fascinated by the philosophy of quality teaching and learning. At Penn, Joe was the TA for Fluid Mechanics (CBE350, fall 2019) and Separation Processes (CBE371, spring 2020). He earned CTL’s Teaching Certificate in 2020, served as a TA trainer in 2021, and was awarded a Penn Prize for Excellence in Teaching by Graduate Students in 2021. As a CTL Fellow, Joe is very excited to continue exploring the makings of quality teaching and share the excitement of this process with his peers.   
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paradorn-joe-rummaneethorn-51380ab5/   

Kimberly White
History

Kimberly is a third-year history doctoral student who investigates the ways that post-colonial nations use international legal forums, such as the UN and the Organization of American States, to gain political and legal recognition for themselves and other dispossessed nations. Lately, she has been exploring manifestations of environmental imperialism in U.S. international legal agreements with post-colonial nations in the Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean in the 20th century, namely after WWII and during the global decolonization era. Inspired by Freirean pedagogical theory, Kimberly’s teaching philosophy emphasizes inquiry, dialogue, and care. She believes that it is imperative to reconfigure the student-teacher hierarchies that pervade many centers of learning. In the classroom, Kimberly and the students co-produce knowledge and question the ideas and histories they collectively encounter throughout the semester. She aims to ensure that every student leaves her classroom confident that the knowledge they’ve generated and acquired can transform the spaces they inhabit.

Angela Xia
Religious Studies

Angela (she/hers) is a 4th year PhD student. Her research focuses on religion and therapeutic culture in the United States. While at Penn, she has assisted teaching courses such as "Sacred Stuff: Religious Bodies, Places, and Things," "African American Religious History," and "Gender, Sexuality, and Religion."  Prior to beginning her doctorate, Angela completed a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University, where she taught in Columbia's Freedom and Citizenship Initiative, a liberal arts seminar and college mentoring program for New York City high school students. Beginning in 2020, she has served as an instructor and mentor for the Teagle Humanities Fellowship, a fellowship that supports first generation college students pursuing studies in the humanities. 

Full list of Past CTL Graduate Fellows