Rekha Patel was working on her master’s degree in India when one of her professors changed the way she thought about biology, imparting a new mindset that shaped the rest of her graduate work and, ultimately, her own academic career in the U.S.
Teaching at the graduate level extends beyond excellence in classroom pedagogy for Patel. She takes an active role in advising graduate students and has formally served on more than 60 graduate advisory committees for students, including 30 biology students and 34 students from other colleges and schools at the university.“Teachers always have a lasting impact on a student’s mind, and the good teachers are remembered with great respect and are are held in the highest regard in our minds,” she says.
“As a teacher, the most important goal for me is to be able to reach every student in the class and make sure that they learn the required material to develop critical thinking skills,” Patel says. “It seems that the same percentage of my classroom meets my expectations no matter how low or high I set the bar. I therefore design my exams such that at least a few questions will spark new ideas and application of the knowledge they learned during lectures.”
Patel has high expectations of herself as a professor and high hopes for her students.
“As a teacher, my job is to endow them with critical learning skills and important analytical tools. As students, it is up to them to be able to use them effectively for the entire course of their scientific careers that begin in a graduate school.”