Most new graduate students will be supported financially through a teaching appointment as they begin their graduate career in the Chemistry Department. Such an appointment is commonly referred to as a “TA” or teaching assistantship. The time commitment is typically 20 hours of effort per work. When compared with a standard 40 h work week, this is considered half-time. You will see the term 2Q in descriptions of teaching appointments: Q refers to quarter, so two quarters are the same as one half (2 x ¼ = ½ and ½ x 40 h = 20 h). Some students with fellowships may also teach a reduced load of 1Q (one quarter or ¼ x 40 h = 10 h/week).
The most common assignment is one of the several undergraduate chemistry courses, especially the high demand general chemistry courses (CHM 11100, CHM 11200, CHM 11500, CHM 11600 and CHM 12901). New students in the organic division may be assigned to one of the introductory organic chemistry sections (CHM 25500, CHM 25501, CHM 25600, CHM 25601). Senior graduate students are often selected by their research advisors to help them teach senior undergraduate or graduate level courses.
The general chemistry courses require the participation of the 2Q TA in the following activities:
- Attendance at the weekly TA meeting (1 h)
- Attendance at both lectures for the course (2 h)
- Presentation of the upcoming lab at the recitation session (2 h)
- Supervision of two three h lab sessions (6 h)
- Weekly office hour (1 h)
These activities require a total of ~ 12 h/week of face-to-face time with your students. Each week, you can expect to spend several additional hours as you review material, prepare for your recitation, grade lab reports or proctor an exam (one per month).
Graduate students sometimes view teaching appointments as a burden. However, being a TA also provides multiple benefits. You’ll never learn a topic as effectively as when you have to teach it yourself (rather helpful when you start taking your cumulative exams). Teaching helps you to hone your presentation skills (very helpful as you prepare to present your seminar and original proposal). Successful teaching requires that you communicate effectively and that is a skill you will use throughout your career. The feedback you get from students in your classes includes an evaluation that you can review and use to improve your instructional effectiveness. Positive evaluations, both from your students and the professor teaching the course, are valuable additions to your CV and portfolio.
During your first semester, you will participate in training program designed to introduce you to teaching methods and practices used in our department.