Josh Pultorak | Teaching
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Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D) in Zoology. Department of Integrative Biology, University of Wisconsin–Madison (2017)

Certificate of Excellence in Research, Teaching and Learning. Delta Program. University of Wisconsin–Madison (2018)

Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and in Zoology, Minor in Neuroscience. Miami University (2008)

Teaching Experience:

Tiny Earth – Antibiotic Research and Discovery (Plant Pathology 375) CURE. Instructor (Fall 2017 – Present). UW-Madison, Wisconsin Institute of Discovery. Implemented and expanded the Tiny Earth CURE (course-based undergraduate research experience) curriculum in collaboration with founder Jo Handelsman. Used scientific teaching principles to encourage students to pursue careers in research by guiding a discovery research experience of soil bacteria’s capacity to produce antibiotic compounds via a series of laboratory techniques. Students produce full length research papers, posters, and presentations in parallel with Introductory Biology (Biology 152).

Introductory Zoology (Biology 203) lecture and laboratory. Adjunct Professor (Fall 2016 – Present). Madison College. Developed course materials (lectures, quizzes, study guides, daily handouts, exams). The course covers general biological principles with an emphasis on cell structure and function, genetics, and vertebrate anatomy and physiology. Consideration also given to morphological and behavioral diversity within the animal kingdom and environmental interactions.

Organismal Biology (Biology 272) laboratory. Adjunct Professor (Spring 2019). Madison College.  Facilitated active learning and inquiry-based laboratory activities. Course content aimed to expose students to a broad range of principles in organismal biology (with an emphasis on evolution, plant physiology, and ecology) and to bolster development in analytical skills, data gathering, experimental design, and science communication.

Human Sexuality (Psychology 201) lecture. Adjunct Professor (Fall 2017). Madison College. Administered course materials (lectures, quizzes, activities, assignments). The course explored sexual anatomy and physiology, as well as sociocultural factors that affect how sexuality is expressed throughout the life cycle. Practical information regarding sexually transmitted diseases, contraception and pregnancy also covered.

Introductory Biology (Biology 152) Case-based learning style lecture-alternative. Teaching Assistant (Spring 2016, Spring 2015). UW-Madison. Evaluated written responses to case study vignettes aimed to enhance and promote student-guided strategies in learning. Worked with professors Eric Kruger and Doug Rouse to develop course goals, materials, and implementation.

Honors Organismal Biology (Biocore 486) Laboratory Teaching Assistant (Fall 2016, Fall 2015). UW-Madison. Facilitated and assessed student-designed experiments and science communication: bio-rationale, methodology, statistical analysis, full-length research papers, oral / poster presentations. Worked with Dr. Michelle Harris to develop course materials for statistics.

Introductory Biology (Biology 152) Laboratory Teaching Assistant (Spring 2014). UW-Madison. Administered and graded quizzes and assignments. Worked with students during hands-on explorations, dissections, and guided learning of molecular techniques. Worked with students to improve their science writing through semester-long independent research projects.

Introductory Biology (Biology 151) Laboratory Teaching Assistant (Fall 2013). UW-Madison. Administered and graded quizzes and assignments. Worked with students during hands-on explorations, dissections, and guided learning of molecular techniques.

Introductory Animal Biology (Zoology 102) Laboratory Teaching Assistant (Spring 2009 – 2012). UW-Madison. Developed mini-lectures and laboratory lesson plans. Wrote and graded quizzes and assignments.

Teaching as Research (TAR) Experience:

*Publication assessing student understanding of biological variation through interviews. My role was primarily quantitative analysis and data visualization. Walck-Shannon, E., Batzli, J., Pultorak, J., and Boehmer, H. J. 2019. Biological variation as a threshold concept: Can we measure threshold crossing? CBE Life Sciences. 18(3).

* Certificate of Excellence in Research, Teaching and Learning. Delta Program (completed Spring 2018). Courses on and internship experience regarding pedagogy for undergraduate learning (see below) culminating in a teaching portfolio.

*Impacts of case-based learningcourse style on biology undergraduate performance within minority and non-minority demographics.Internship project -Teaching, Research and Learning. Delta Program. Rigorous data analysis of student success (grade performance and STEM major retention) (Spring 2017). Delta Program. UW-Madison.

* “Instructional Materials and Development – Integrating Statistics into STEM Courses” (Statistics 692) (Spring 2014). UW-Madison. Delta Program. Worked on project with faculty to develop, implement and assess course materials to improve Edgewood College nursing students’ quantitative reasoning skills.

* “Research and Evaluation in Science Outreach” (Curriculum & Instruction 975) (Summer 2014). UW-Madison. Delta Program. Gained skills and knowledge of the literature pertaining to science outreach implementation and evaluation.

* Conceptual Elements: A Detailed Framework to Support and Assess Student Learning of Biology Core Concept (Cary and Branchaw 2017, published in CBE Life Sciences Education). Served as an expert scorer of student responses to assess their understanding of core concepts in biology.

Mentoring and Leadership:

*Mentored 15 undergraduates collaborating in projects for my dissertation research. Four were included as co-authors for publications. Several are currently pursuing graduate research degrees, one in Harvard’s “Mind, Brain and Education” program. Others have pursued medicine or STEM-related industry positions, including a senior developer for the Center for Open Science.

*Tiny Earth Symposium (global) Planning Committee Member. Organized logistics for student poster presentation session and competition judging. June 2018. 

* Departmental Teaching Assistant Trainer, Integrative Biology (January 2015). UW-Madison. Selected to be one of three senior TAs to lead a training workshop to TAs in the Zoology department. Presented “Navigating the Challenge of Student Understanding and Communication of Statistical Analyses”.

*Communications B Teaching Assistant Fellow (August 2014): Selected and funded to be one of four fellows at UW-Madison to develop and present training sessions for graduate student TAs working in writing-intensive courses. Presented “Mind Your P (value)s and (research) Qs: Helping Students Translate Statistical Analyses into Accurate Written Language”. Feedback from session participants included comments such as “hugely important information” with “terrific handouts that I can refer to later” and “an attitude of positivity and encouragement”.

*Vice President of “The Handphibians” (2014 – present). Leadership of a 40-person community music ensemble with approximately 20 yearly performances, generating over $10,000 in revenue. Responsibilities include event coordination, promotional materials, and delegation of tasks to members. The position requires excellent communication and organizational skills.

*Marie Kohler Interdisciplinary Fellow @ Wisconsin Institute for Discovery (WID) (September 2014 – August 2017). Three years experience in collaborating with an eight-person team of selected fellows comprised of dissertators across disciplines in planning and executing large-scale events on campus and in the Madison community at large. Leadership role in turning ideas into realities via coordination of interdisciplinary-themed events including a public lecture series, performances combining science and art, film screenings with panel discussions, trivia nights, conference presentations, and radio show appearances.

Presentations (Teaching-as-Research)

Pultorak, J; Breschak, J; Behr, B; Carlson, K. Unearthing the Wisconsin Experience: Implementing Tiny Earth Projects at UW-Madison and Madison College. “Lifelong Learning as Teachers” Teaching and Learning Symposium. Madison WI. May 14 2020.

Thomas, S; Pultorak, J. Small Microbes and Big Data: Introducing Biology Students to Data Analysis. “Lifelong Learning as Teachers” Teaching and Learning Symposium. Madison WI. May 14 2020.

Pultorak, S; Marks, T; Pultorak, J. Impact of Participation in Student-Run Clinic on Occupational Therapy Students’ Clinical Exam Scores. “Lifelong Learning as Teachers” Teaching and Learning Symposium. Madison WI. May 14 2020.

Pultorak, J. Digging Deeper – Statistical Hypothesis Testing in Student Tiny Earth Research. Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Madison, WI. July 11 2019.

Pultorak, J; Batzli, J; Walck-Shannon, E. Biological variation as a threshold concept: Can we measure threshold crossing? Poster presentation. UW Education Research Poster Fair. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Madison, WI. February 22, 2019.

Pultorak, J. Roots in Soil – Reaching the Community Through Antibiotic Research. Tiny Earth Symposium. Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. Madison, WI. June 21 2018.

Pultorak, J; Batzli, J; Walck-Shannon, E. Biological variation as a threshold concept: Can we measure threshold crossing? Oral presentation. 7thBiennial Threshold Concepts Conference. Miami University. Oxford, OH. June 14 2018

Pultorak, J; Rouse, D; Breschak, J; Handelsman, J; Heitz, J. Connecting Small Worlds: Establishing a Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) through cross-departmental and cross-institutional partnerships at UW-Madison. Poster presentation. “Connecting To Our Students: Teaching and Learning Symposium. UW-Madison. May 17, 2018.

Walck-Shannon, E; Pultorak, J; Batzli, J. Biological variation as a threshold concept: Can we measure threshold crossing? Oral presentation. National meeting – Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER). Minneapolis, MN. July 23, 2017.

Breschak, J; Heitz, J; Pultorak J; Miller, A; Abbot, D. Addressing Active Learning and Asymmetrical Learning Outcomes: Using Scientific Teaching Methods to Couple Diversity and Equity Sensibilities with Active Leaning Interventions. Oral presentation. “Teaching the Wisconsin Experience: Teaching and Learning Symposium. May 17 2017.

Breschak, J; Heitz, J; Pultorak J; Miller, A; Abbot, D. Introductory Biology 151 and Animal Physiology: Doubling Active Learning Activies and Unexpected Outcomes. Poster presentation. “Teaching the Wisconsin Experience: Teaching and Learning Symposium. May 17 2017.

Symposia and Workshops:

*Tiny Earth. Second Annual Symposium (planning committee member). July 9-11 2019. Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

*A Celebration of Student Research and Scholarship (planning committee member). May 15 2019. Madison College.

*Hot Discoveries in Frozen Soil (organizer). April 29 2019. Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

*Tiny Earth. First Annual Symposium (planning committee member). June 21-22 2018. Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

*Teaching Academy Summer Institute 2018. June 4-7 2018. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

*UW Teaching Academy 2017 Symposium. Teaching the Wisconsin Experience. May 17 2017. University of Wisconsin Teaching Academy.

*What’s in a grade? Alternative models of teaching and learning.” Delta Program. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Nov 11 2016.

*UW Teaching Academy 2016 Symposium: Engage Students, Personalize Learning. May 18 2016. University of Wisconsin Teaching Academy.

*Improv to Improve Teaching and Communication. Workshop. February 10 2016. Delta program. University of Wisconsin-Madison

*Biological vs. Computer Viruses: Parasitic Elements of a New Digital Ecosphere  (organizer). Kohler Fellows. Wisconsin Institute for Discovery. April 17 2015.

*Teaching with Technology. Workshop. Delta Program. UW-Madison. Oct 30 2014.

*Wisconsin Symposium on Feminist Biology (“discussant” for Sari van Anders). October 10, 2014. University of Wisconsin – Madison

*Human Sociality and The Internet. Human Behavior and Evolution Society. Natal, Brazil. July 30 2014

*Rethinking Majors Biology Teaching Workshop. W.H. Freeman, Macmillan, UW Zoology Dept. June 1, 2013. Madison, WI.

*Integrating Research Ethics and Scholarship (IRES): Collaborations with Statisticians. Dr. Kevin Eng. December 5, 2012. University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School.

*UW Teaching Academy 2012 Symposium: From Philosophy to Practice. September 28 2012. University of Wisconsin Teaching Academy


Evidence, Technology, and the Humanity in Diversity: Adaptations for Learning in the 21st Century.

A Teaching and Mentoring Philosophy by Josh Pultorak

Adaptation refers to the dynamic process by which species become better suited to the challenges of a changing environment. From a broad perspective, adaptation requires both a preservation of the wisdom of the past as well as flexibility to incorporate necessary modifications for success in the future. This universal process can, and should, be applied and revered in the domain of education, both from the viewpoint of the learner and of the teacher. Indeed, Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest minds of our time, maintains that “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change”. My philosophy can be summarized as a collection of three distinct benefits of applying the principle of adaptation to challenges of teaching and learning in the 21st century. First, effective teaching requires adaptive changes in response to critical evaluation, which can be strengthened through scientific teaching practices. Second, an evolving technological culture demands an updated approach to education via effective use of technologies. Third, reaching students of diverse backgrounds, skills and personalities necessitates an environment-specific social intelligence and an understanding of well-applied pedagogy.

Research has clearly shown that students benefit from instructors incorporating evidence-based teaching methods. In addition to modifying my teaching based on successful models in the literature such as backward design, I have made a point to seriously incorporate the idea of collecting data from students and mentees, and to respond accordingly. In the context of mentoring, this might involve a self-report survey or conversational check-in aimed to identify areas where growth and professional development are desired. In the classroom, this might mean reflecting on formative assessments like a show of hands, a brief post-exam survey, or minute paper. Alternatively, it might mean reflecting on summative assessments like exam scores based on specific pedagogical approaches used in each unit. To demonstrate my commitment to these practices, I have pursued formal training in teaching-as-research, culminating in a certificate of excellence from the Delta program, a regional division of the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning in higher education (CIRTL). From a broad historical perspective, the world has progressed based on evidence-based methods, and there is no reason to suspect this is not also the case in education.

In the current age of digitization and exponential technological development, the intersection of technology and education presents challenges as well as opportunities. The internet has enabled students to access large inventories (e.g. Wikipedia) of terms and facts as well as instructional videos (e.g. Crash Course Biology and Cosmos) and educational mobile “apps”. Utilizing these resources inside and/or outside of the classroom offers effective means of integrating information. For example, a 3D visualization of DNA transcription and translation allows more a more comprehensive representation than a series of 2D depictions on paper. In addition, some technologies such as real-time file sharing and document editing allow for enhanced collaboration among students. Contrastingly, research is starting to indicate downsides to a digitalized environment in the classroom, resulting in problems in student focus. Nonetheless, incorporating certain technologies into one’s pedagogy, if carefully considered, can greatly complement student learning in the 21st century.

Strong learning communities demonstrably benefit student learning. Small group work has been a core feature of the classrooms I have been fortunate to lead, and adaptive flexibility of the instructor in these environments enriches students at the individual, group, and class level. As instructor for UW-Madison’s new course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) in the area of antibiotics discovery as part of the Tiny Earth Network, my role really is a coalescence of “mentor” and “instructor”, guiding small teams (3-4 students per team) to pursue experimental questions that satisfy their curiosity and sharpen their tools as researchers. Similarly, case-based learning (CBL) classrooms such as those newly offered in UW-Madison Introductory Biology program incorporate group collaboration to solve complex problems. As an instructor in this context, having a keen sense of intra- and inter- personal dynamics in the classroom was fundamental to facilitating student-centered learning goals.

Every student is different. Cultivating enough flexibility to positively impact each individual student’s learning is a difficult but invaluable skill for teachers and mentors. A career in teaching and mentoring is inherently social, and an appreciation of the diversity of student personalities, socioeconomic backgrounds, mental health, and unique goals helps to foster a more sincere human connection from teacher-to-student, mentor-to-mentee, and consequently, a better learning environment. Throughout my experience as an instructor and mentor, I have increasingly recognized the value of developing a personal rapport. Sometimes this involves fun interactions like soliciting requests for mammalian physiology-themed background music during laboratory rat dissections, or attempting some samba dance moves for a visiting Brazilian student. Other times this takes a more serious blend, like taking a walk after class with a student struggling with mental health issues and discussing his experience and challenges in learning. In many ways, my degree in Psychology helps to inform situations like these. Similarly, my experience as a mentor for UW Psychology’s PREP research experience program for underrepresented minority students allowed for a deeper appreciation of how a substantive personal connection can pave the way for a rich narratives to develop, ultimately allowing for the construction of strong letters of recommendation. As a mentor, identifying and rewarding areas of mentee strengths can lead to inspiringly positive outcomes. As an example, one of my mentees began to learn to code in Python language in order to execute a task for my dissertation research. Impressively, he was able to develop these skills and parlay his achievements into a Hilldale Undergraduate Research Fellowship with my lab his senior year. He is now a lead developer for the Center for Open Science.

Diversity also manifests at the institutional level, and implementing a variety of pedagogical techniques in the curriculum helps to equitably benefit students of different strengths, weakness, and learning styles. There has been a push in recent years for diversifying classroom methods such that students are exposed to a variety of modalities (visual, auditory, tactile, etc), as well as a mix of individual work, small group work, and class-level work. I have had the opportunity to teach for biology programs at UW that emphasize active learning and student-focused pedagogies (e.g. Biocore honors biology curriculum, CBL alternative to lecture in Introductory Biology, the Tiny Earth CURE at Wisconsin Institute for Discovery). In addition, my Delta teaching-as-research internship focused on the confluence of active learning and student demographics (i.e. targeted minority status) on various aspects of performance in Introductory Biology. In sum, both first-hand experiences and the literature reinforce the utility of these pedagogical techniques on student learning. Ultimately, students benefit from a “just-right challenge” in their learning. This is a difficult task, but very rewarding when it is accomplished – In the words of a student at Madison College last Fall, “I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your class this semester and that I found it challenging in the best of ways. It was nice to have a teacher that seemed to care so much about his students’ success without trying to hand feed us all the answers.” Indeed, my aspirations to hone my practice in this regard for teaching and mentoring will be life-long. Adaptation is, after all, an evolutionary process.


TAR project overview

The Delta Internship Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison provides graduate students and postdoctoral researchers the opportunity to develop teaching and learning skills in real-world situations. Each semester, the Delta Program supports a new cohort of interns who partner with faculty and staff to improve teaching practices and learning environments through innovative teaching-as-research projects. Interns develop, implement, and evaluate innovations and interventions that aim to improve learning in a classroom, lab, outreach program or other venue. My internship project from Spring 2017 is outlined below.

Impacts of case-based learning course style on biology undergraduates’ performance within minority and non-minority demographics

Josh Pultorak and Jon Breschak

Faculty and staff are well aware of the unfortunate tendency for good students give up their goals of a science degree based on their experiences in their introductory courses. Degree completion rates are especially low for underrepresented minorities (Hurtado, 2010). Recently, attention has been given to the efficacy of active learning and student-driven research experiences in increasing measures of student success and persistence rates among STEM majors (Stolle-McAllister et al., 2011), including underrepresented students (Summers and Hrabowski, 2006). The Introductory Biology at UW-Madison has implemented a case-based learning (CBL) style “case study” lecture alternative (for which I was personally a TA) for a subset of students. We developed a large dataset spanning two years that permitted us to link course style (lecture vs. CBL), demographics, and student success outcomes. My broad question was, “Do demographics and prior academic history predict success in Introductory Biology at the University of Wisconsin, and does a CBL style alternative to lecture differentially impact success among students with different backgrounds?” Results are presented in poster form here. Briefly, the “achievement gap” in course performance was consistent with national findings, but minority enrollment (which was proportional higher in CBL than tradition lecture) in CBL seemed to alleviate this gap enrollment. Overall, students in the CBL alternative outperformed traditional lecture students in at least one aspect of course performance. Future analyses will track these predictors and the impact of the CBL style course on student retention in STEM majors.



Reflective Statement – Teaching As Research (TAR) project
Delta Internship – Spring 2017
Josh Pultorak

My reflections primarily relate to gains in professional development as well as questions surrounding ethics at the intersection of the scientific research and institutional culture.  These reflections are woven into the three themes of the internship experience (Teaching-As-Research, Learning through Diversity, and Learning Communities) below.


Thanks to previous Delta courses (e.g. Instructional Materials Development with Michelle Harris and Rick Nordheim), a TA-ship in the Biocore program, and my experience as adjunct professor at Madison College, I came into the internship with a relatively strong foundation in teaching-as-research philosophy. However, the internship provided a unique opportunity to reinforce practices (e.g. Backward design) across a variety of academic fields and institutional settings. This was due to the breadth of TAR project approaches of the approximately 10 interns as well as the online CIRTL presentations led by former CITRL project interns. Somewhat ironically, I feel as though I gained more research skills relevant to methodologies outside my project. For example, we spent a good deal of (useful) time working on survey construction and analysis and visualization of qualitative data, despite my project being almost purely quantitative in nature. From a ‘meta’ perspective, it was especially useful to see the instructor, Devin Wixon, incorporate TAR tenets into the internship seminar (e.g. pre/post semester evaluations, formative assessments allowing for participants to drive aspects of the seminar curriculum). Devin definitely ‘practiced what she preached’, which made for an effective model.

Learning through Diversity

My particular project topic (on active learning benefits to minority students in introductory biology) revealed itself as a crash course in learning through diversity in an R1 institution. First, it pressed me to dive into the literature on the relative successes of pedagogies within different demographic groups, and challenge my own beliefs about why the data are what they are. Second, I was forced to face challenges in research ethics in which social mores were potentially at odds with statistical integrity within my own work. For example, if an analysis reveals a strong “achievement gap” even after controlling for economic factors, is it socially useful to present this information, especially when my academic program just hired a staff member whose core philosophy espouses socioeconomic injustices leading to this phenomenon? In addition, as is often the case in research, the struggle between formulating a clear narrative to present and being statistically virtuous became apparent in my work.

Learning Communities

The most rewarding aspect of the internship was centered in professional development gains rooted within the broad learning community. In addition to the benefits of being in a cohort of interns (above), the internship afforded me an opportunity to work closely with Delta staff and affiliates, collaborate with statistical consultants, develop a close mentor/mentee relationship with an undergraduate in statistics, and finally, present my work at the 2017 Teaching and Learning Symposium to colleagues across institutions and programs (e.g. WISCIENCE, Biocore) whose values align with Delta. More broadly, my involvement with the Delta program fostered development in networking that directly led to job opportunities, including work as a Biocore teaching assistant, a case-based-learning teaching assistant, part time faculty member at Madison College, and most recently, as instructor of a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery in partnership with several affiliated departments. As the CURE instructor, I implemented the curriculum created by Jo Handelsman, and developed the course such that it successfully aligned with aims of the independent project for Introductory Biology 152 devised and refined by Jean Heitz. This was no easy feat, given all the many players personally invested in the outcome of the course. In sum, these opportunities have been crucial in my personal development as an educator and young professional in the area of biology education research. 

Communications B Fellowship


Each semester, newly hired graduate student teaching assistants (TAs) embark on their first teaching experiences. At UW-Madison, a large cohort of TAs are hired for writing intensive “Communications B” courses. Among these Comm B courses are science classes for which students write full length research papers.

In 2014, I was selected as a Comm B Fellow to present a training session to new TAs faced with the task of grading student science writing assignments. My session “Mind Your P (value)s and (research) Qs: Helping Students Translate Statistical Analyses into Accurate Written Language”, aimed to equip TAs with a framework to guide students in writing up quantitative results in their scientific papers. Participants found the training to be particularly helpful.

Please contact me if you’d like to view the training session materials.

Statistics Workshops


I have a particular interest in guiding students toward a confident, functional mastery of simple statistical tools for quantitative analysis in scientific research. I find it unfortunate that many students have an aversion toward learning statistics in biology classes, possibly due to intimidation of the “mathy” subject matter, or possibly statistics classes that dive into too much irrelevant detail like calculating ANOVAs by hand. Much like drivers do not need to be auto mechanics, young researchers do not need to be statisticians. They don’t need to know everything “under the hood”. Rather, they simply need to know how to drive. Beginning with a Delta Instructional Materials Development class, “Integrating Statistics into STEM Courses”, I put together a multi-step workshop on using inferential statistics (t-tests, ANOVAs, chi square, Pearson correlation, and non-parametric equivalents) to answer research questions. Thus far, I’ve used and tailored these materials for introductory biology students in the context of an antibiotics discovery course-based research experience (CURE) as well as an honors capstone research laboratory course in the BioCore program. Further, I’ve presented these materials to equip first-time teaching assistants as a departmental TA trainer for Integrative Biology and college-wide Communications B Fellow.

Please contact me if you’d like to view my workshop materials.

Student Testimonials

Thank you for working with me, my group, and everyone else in the lab this semester. I’ve never been in a research lab before, and [this course] was a nice stepping stone for me into the world of research. I really learned a lot from you regarding lab skills, scientific thought, and beyond. I’m a relatively quiet person, so I don’t express myself well at times; however, I really enjoyed all of the things that happened in lab this semester, and I really appreciate everything you’ve done for us to ensure our success. Hopefully we will be able to work together in the future!  (UW-Madison CURE at WID, Fall 2017)

I just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your class this semester, and that I found it challenging in the best of ways. It was nice to have a teacher that seemed to care so much about his students’ success without trying to hand feed us all the answers. It was a pleasure to learn from you. (Madison College, Fall 2016)

I think Josh helped a lot in regards to our understanding of the importance of statistical analysis on scientific research. I definitely think he pushed us to be better scientist and be more critical of how we interpret our results. I also think he did a good job in harshly criticizing our papers to ensure that each time we turned in the next assignment it got better and better. He’s obviously a lover of science and it comes across which is nice. (UW-Madison Biocore 486, Fall 2015)

One especially fun aspect of teaching science is working with youth and non-scientist adults in outreach contexts. I’ve been fortunate to have many great outreach opportunities, ranging from plating soil or building fractal puzzles with kids in the lab, to exploring the physics of drumming, or even adult cocktail bar talks about the interdisciplinary science of distillation.

Tiny Earth is an innovative program comprised of a network of researchers and educators aimed at inspiring students in the sciences while addressing a real-world global health threat – the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics. It centers around an introductory biology course in which students perform hands-on field and laboratory research on soil samples in the hunt for new antibiotics. As part of the Wisconsin Science Festival at the Discovery Building, my students and I shared our knowledge of soil bacteriology with junior high students and received an honorable mention for the network’s “Do Something About Antibiotics Challenge” in the category of Best Citizen Science Activity. 

Another past Wisconsin Science Festival staple I took part in designing and implementing was the Center for Complexity and Collective Computation’s “Simple Rules, Complex Behavior” outreach session, in which young participants explored the mathematics beyond fractal structures and built simple algorithms to produce complex behavior seen in machines and living organisms.

As part of the leadership of the Handphibians, a local Brazilian-style community drumming ensemble, I designed a “Drumming Vibrations” outreach session for the Discovery Building’s Science Saturday curriculum in which kids learned lessons about the physics of acoustics and sound production in a fun (and loud!) hands-on way.

One of my favorite consistent outreach mechanisms was as part of the Marie Christine Kohler Fellowship @ WID, composed of senior graduate students selected on the strength of their commitment and abilities to contribute to interdisciplinary thought. Kohler Fellows work and collaborate within WID, connecting students across campus with the community through a range of interdisciplinary events, including radio show appearances, film screening and panel discussions, and lecture and performance events such as “Distillation”, shown above.