Junior chemistry major Daniel Dooling has had a passion for chemistry since high school, so the decision to apply to be a chemistry teaching assistant was obvious when the opportunity presented itself two years ago. Since then, Dooling has relished the chance to share his passion and to help others gain a better understanding of the subject.
His devotion to chemistry made him an easy pick for a Spring 2017 Citation for Excellence in Teaching Chemistry.
“Danny has this zeal for chemistry, and it reflects in his teaching,” Professor Jason Kautz, the Coordinator of General Chemistry, said. “It’s helped him become a dynamic TA, and it’s clear that his students feed off his energy.”
The award came as a bit of a surprise to Dooling, but he was honored nonetheless.
“There are a lot of very talented people that teach, and a lot of really great TAs,” Dooling said. “So, to be given this award is a pretty big honor for me. It makes me feel like I’m moving in the right direction and doing things well.”
Dooling started working for the department as a teaching assistant in the fall of 2015. Since then, he has taught labs and recitations for both Chemistry 109 and 110. Teaching has taught Dooling how adapt his teaching approach when interacting with a room full of students, all with different learning styles. It has also helped him gain a better understanding of the subject itself.
“In order to teach something, you have to have a really concrete knowledge of the material,” Dooling said. “If you teach something, and you know you’re going to be asked questions, you have to develop a really broad, in-depth knowledge of the topic.”
Having a deep understanding of chemistry is critical to understanding the other sciences, Dooling said. This notion was reinforced this past year when he was a member of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln iGEM team. iGEM, which is short for international Genetically Engineered Machines, is an interdisciplinary team comprised of six undergraduates that completes a summer research project in the field of synthetic biology.
Nebraska’s team is the first of its kind in the state. It competed in Boston last fall at the international iGEM competition and was awarded a silver medal.
Dooling hopes his experience with iGEM and as a teaching assistant will help him get into medical school. After he graduates in May 2018, he wants to return to his hometown of Omaha, Neb. to attend the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Being a teaching assistant has opened up many doors and paved a road for future success for Dooling, and he hopes more students will jump at the opportunity to teach.
“I’ve talked to a lot of students who were thinking about applying, and didn’t. I’d just tell them to try it,” he said. “It really helps your understanding of the subject material.”