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Regardless of the source of support, each Ph.D. student is required to serve as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and/or Course Assistant (CA) for two Biology (BIO or BIOHOPK) courses.   

One quarter must be in the undergraduate lab courses (BIO 45, 46 47, or BIOHOPK 47), introductory courses (BIO 60s level), or foundations courses (BIO 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86 or BIOHOPK 81, 84, 85).  The second course may be an advanced undergraduate BIO elective course or lab/introductory/foundations course. Biosciences mini-courses (BIOS) or summer teaching positions cannot be used to fulfill teaching requirements.  Students are expected to complete both TA requirements by autumn of their 3rd year in the PhD program. CMOB students who TA during the Autumn Quarter of their 2nd year can request to postpone their qualifying exam until the end of Winter Quarter. Petitions for postponement should be submitted before the start of the Autumn Quarter of the 2nd year.

The department requires teaching experience for two reasons. First, the department has practical needs for teaching assistance and must satisfy some of these needs with graduate teaching assistants. Second, the teaching experience is valuable for students who later choose to pursue academic careers where they will be expected to teach and develop courses as well as for students who pursue any career in which public speaking, leadership, presentation skills and program planning are used.

TA selection/appointment process:

  • An application that includes a list of courses offered with available TA positions for the academic year will be emailed to students annually, typically in July/August. Students who have not fulfilled the required two TAships are required to submit an application.
  • Students will complete the application, ranking the courses they would most like to teach in the coming year.
  • Student Services and the Graduate Studies Committee will make a top candidate TA list for each course based on: 1) priority to intro/foundation courses/labs; 2) area of expertise and 3) additional skills required.
  • Instructors will be able to select a TA from the candidate list if there are multiple candidates. If TAs are not chosen in a timely manner, then TAs will be assigned by the Graduate Studies Committee.
  • The student should confirm with their advisor plans to be a TA.

The department will compile a list of teaching expectations and responsibilities for each course (instructor course information) and provide this information annually to graduate students with the application. Typical teaching responsibilities include the following:

  • Assist in the preparation and grading of exams, problem sets, etc.
  • Hold regular office hours
  • Assist in preparation and distribution of course handouts
  • Attend lectures
  • Provide student course feedback to instructor
  • Initiate and plan discussion sections
  • For lab courses: set up experiments, check equipment and supervise clean-up

Within the first two weeks of starting each TA position, the student should complete the TA Pre-Course Meeting Form with their supervising instructors and submit it to the Student Services Office.  Then, in order to fulfill their teaching requirements, students should have their supervising instructors complete the Teaching Evaluation Form. and submit the form to the Student Services Office.

Students who plan to TA for one of the core labs (BIO 45, 46 or 47) are required to attend a one-day training in the preceding quarter, BIO 291. Registering for BIO 291 to obtain units is optional.

In order to support students in their teaching, students must complete BIO 296 TA Training in Biology concurrently with their first teaching assistantship.  This workshop provides students with basic training, support and professional development. 


Optional Teaching:

Students who wish to do more teaching after they have fulfilled the requirement may ask to be considered, though faculty must give first priority to students who have not yet completed their requirements. Occasionally students want to design a new course; this is possible, but teaching requirements must already be completed and student must have written approval from his/her advisor to design and teach a class. Students interested in this should see staff in the Student Services Office 3-6 months in advance of possibly offering the course.