Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

Submitted by Diana Knight on
Chemistry Study Center
Madeline Currie
Ashley Dostie
Mercie Hodges
Dylan Rogers
Devin Rollins
Sahiti Shankar

The Department of Chemistry's Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award recognizes special contributions by graduate students in undergraduate education.

Congratulations to our recipients of the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for 2021: Madeline Currie, Mercie Hodges, Dylan Rogers, Devin Rollins, and Sahiti Shankar! Congratulations to Ashley Dostie, the recipient of the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award for 2020!

Madeline Currie is a second-year graduate student in the research group of Professor Champak Chatterjee. She was nominated by Professor Chatterjee who taught Honors Organic Chemistry (CHEM 335) in autumn 2021. Prof. Chatterjee was “blown away by the quality of independent initiative that Madeline showed” by elevating the level of quizzes through her creation of a diverse range of questions and preparing challenge problem sets to accompany each chapter for students to review before exams. She demonstrated a mastery of organic chemistry and put her students at ease with the challenging pace of instruction and diverse concepts. In a quarter when the Department had the largest honors organic class (74 students) in many years including students with differing abilities in chemistry, Madeline's investment through office hours, one-on-one meetings by appointment, and the content she created has proven her to be the most capable TA Professor Chatterjee has worked with in the last decade.

Ashley Dostie is a doctoral candidate in the research group of Assistant Professor Ashleigh Theberge. She was nominated by Professor Theberge who taught Meso and Microfluidics in Chemical Analysis (CHEM 425/525) in spring 2020 and Teaching Professor Deborah Wiegand who taught Principles of Chemistry III (CHEM 221) in spring 2020. Ashley’s area of research is analytical chemistry, but she quickly mastered the complete range of biochemistry topics required for CHEM 221. Her extraordinary ability to assess student needs and respond with the right mix of support and challenge was paramount to guiding students through the complex biochemistry material after they completed only one quarter of organic chemistry. Ashley quickly became a leader and served as a resource for the other CHEM 221 TAs. She shared strategies for assisting students in effectively studying the material and for helping students see the relevance of the material to their future in the health care field. One TA told Prof. Wiegand that they dreaded being assigned to 221, but Ashley was the reason they ended up enjoying it. For CHEM 425/525, Ashley attended several workshops to help convert the course to an online format. As a grader, Ashley was not required to attend class, but she did to help with active learning components and technical issues on Zoom. Ashley cares deeply for her students and their learning and worked with them to accommodate individual circumstances during a challenging quarter.

Mercie Hodges is a second-year graduate student in the research group of Assistant Professor Matthew Golder. She was nominated by three students in her lab section for Organic Chemistry (CHEM 241) in autumn 2021. Mercie had the incredibly difficult job of running a laboratory course for students who had never taken a college lab because they completed the prerequisites remotely. She provided explanations in an understandable way “that still made me come up with the answer on my own.” She handled situations in lab “with grace,” “the calmness and ease that a leader should,” and “never showed signs of frustration.” Mercie was knowledgeable, responsive, and helped her students succeed by encouraging students to take care of themselves in and out of the lab, providing mental health resources, and being open about her own mental health. Her genuine care was shown by learning her students’ names, and constantly encouraging, reassuring, and validating everyone. She gave advice on how to be successful in a competitive environment, and “made me feel like I had what it takes to become involved in the field of chemistry.” “Mercie is one of the best TAs I have had at UW.”

Dylan Rogers is a doctoral candidate in the research group of Professor Julie Kovacs. He was nominated by Professor Brandi Cossairt who taught Transition Metals (CHEM 416/516) in autumn 2021. Dylan was proactive about providing specific and useful feedback to students on problem sets and quizzes, and tailored his help to maximize student learning. He identified common errors and explained their origins and how they could be corrected. Dylan was responsive and careful when it came to grading and student questions. When he substituted for Prof. Cossairt for one lecture, the students gave his lecture two thumbs up, stating that it was engaging and informative. Prof. Cossairt called Dylan “an exemplary TA—the best I have had.”

Devin Rollins is a first-year graduate student in the research group of Assistant Professor Dianne Xiao. Devin was nominated by three students in his quiz section for Organic Chemistry (CHEM 237) in autumn 2021 for his investment in his students and their learning. Before every exam, Devin sent out study tips and his own hand-written notes on topics that his students found difficult. He answered every question, provided extra practice problems, suggested other textbooks that would help students understand the material, and listened to student concerns. Devin exemplified leadership through his ability to “unite the class and help us learn with one another.” He was “approachable and inviting,” and created a compassionate environment in the classroom where students were comfortable seeking help and learned the value of asking questions. Devin earned his students’ respect “by sitting down with us, being vulnerable to us by expressing his own struggles and helping us to get through ours.” “Outside of class, he taught us that checking in on yourself and prioritizing your mental health is ultimately more important and will allow you to go farther in life.” Devin genuinely cares about his students’ performance and went above and beyond to help them succeed.

Sahiti Shankar is a first-year graduate student in the research group of Professor Champak Chatterjee. She was nominated by twelve students in her quiz section for Organic Chemistry (CHEM 237) in autumn 2021. All twelve nominations cited the mini-lectures Sahiti provided at each quiz section that improved comprehension, “saved my grade” by reviewing concepts in detail and helped another student “probably score 15% higher on exams.” Other themes in Sahiti’s nominations included her extensive knowledge, great communication skills, motivating and encouraging words and emails, empathy and care for her students and their success, and her ability to make students feel comfortable in class: comfortable asking questions, being wrong, studying a challenging subject for the first time—a subject that makes you think in ways you never had before—and comfortable despite anxiety about returning to campus in-person. Sahiti was “always on her A game,” “the best TA I’ve ever had in any STEM class,” and “made me like chemistry more than before.” “I wish she could be my TA for every class!”

The Outstanding TA Awards are funded by donor-supported graduate student support funds. The most recent awards of $500 were funded by the Benton Seymour Rabinovitch Endowed Fellowship established by Professor B. Seymour Rabinovitch in 1999 to provide financial assistance to graduate students in the Department of Chemistry.
Thank you to the late Prof. Rabinovitch and Rabinovitch family, and to our alumni and friends who generously contributed to the Rabinovitch Fellowship to fund these awards. If you have questions about giving to the University of Washington or how you can support students in the Department of Chemistry, please contact Diana Knight, advancement & communications manager.