Making the Transition: Susanne Bockholt

"I'm really excited by teaching and I didn't want to be in a job that totally focused on research," says Susanne Bockholt, research associate at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. For Bockholt, who received her Ph.D. in cell biology and anatomy at UNC Chapel Hill and then undertook a postdoc position at the University of Utah, the bench was not for her.

"In the traditional science track, you learn to do one thing very well, but there's no real opportunity to develop teaching skills," explains Bockholt, who "turned down faculty positions and took the job at CELL to really broaden my skills ... skills that I couldn't get in a research position."

It's been a worthwhile year for Bockholt, who is designing a distance education course in molecular cell biology that will be given to students at Shaw University in Raleigh and North Carolina Central University in Durham. And she believes the effort is paying off, despite attitudes that she believes prevail among some researchers who feel they've "lost" one of their own to another field. "Now I feel I have greater marketability. I'm no longer restricted by one type of position," says Bockholt, who joined the CELL group in May 1999.

"I had to learn new pedagogy skills that were not typically used while I was in school," explains Bockholt. There is a need to fully understand the many methods of teaching, such as the use of inquiry-based learning and collaborative learning to develop students' critical thinking and problem-solving skills. "I had to learn these new skills through workshops, reading, and researching. I've spent a lot of time focusing on these aspects of teaching and incorporating technology into these practices," reveals Bockholt.

She explains that teaching faculty is just as important as teaching students. "Faculty training is important," says Bockholt. "The idea is to spread the knowledge to faculty so that they can learn and adopt the technology."

"I left my postdoc with no clue of how to put things on the Web," reveals Bockholt. "But now, I've learned new computer skills and developed instructional Web tools. I'm learning to use a course management tool and am working with faculty to develop their Web sites," she explains. "It's amazing, but I could not have pictured myself doing this!"

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