Groups of students in Professor Dr. Katy Lustofin’s Biology 106 lab combed through a cordoned-off patch of grass in front of Erwin Hall in April, searching for as many plant species as they could find. While some of the students asked Lustofin questions about the project or what they were trying to identify, others directed their inquiries to Catherine Wadih ’22, a Biology and Math major and a tremendous asset to the class.
“This past year the (teaching assistants) were so critical for making sure that students were following appropriate safety protocols — there’s only so much I can see through Zoom — answering questions when students had them or attracting my attention to Zoom so I could answer questions,” Lustofin says. “And the days when we had no internet — which happened twice this past semester — I would give the intro to the lab in each room and then Cat was essentially the instructor for the room she was in for most of the rest of the class. Honestly, I don’t think we could have done it without the TAs this past year, and Cat was particularly wonderful, as she is very dedicated and proactive about addressing student concerns and confusion.”
Lustofin says all Biology majors are required to complete an internship or a tutorship, and Wadih is the fourth TA she has had in her introductory lab. It was important to recruit more TAs for the Biology labs because of social distancing requirements, which meant the labs were split into two classrooms and connected through Zoom. Wadih, who is also pursuing a minor in Gender Studies and Sexuality Studies, thinks graduate school is in her future plans.
“I know that in graduate school the chances of me having to serve as a TA again or to even to teach a class are high, so I think that being a TA at this level and working closely with Dr. Lustofin was a really good experience for me,” she says. “There was definitely a learning curve for me at first as to how to prepare for lab each week, but I think that I got better at it as the semester went on. Dr. Lustofin is really great, and she set a really nice example for me of how a lab like that operates and generally what to expect.” Gi Smith