FAST Fellow Bios

2016-2017 FAST Fellows

Aseel Bala-Ahmed is a fourth year Ph.D. student in chemical engineering working with Dr. Carl Lira to better understand and model phase equilibria in systems with hydrogen bonding components. Originally from Sudan, she received her undergraduate degree in 2013 from Sultan Qaboos University in Oman. She is very excited to develop teaching technique through the FAST fellowship program, meet and interact with other graduate students interested in education and learn about successfully delivering topics of thermodynamics to undergraduate students.

Jennifer Byford is currently a doctoral student under Dr. Premjeet Chahal in the Terahertz Systems Laboratory.  Prior to joining the group as a graduate student in spring of 2014 she earned her Bachelor's degree in Electrical Engineering from Michigan State University where she was also part of the Honors College.  Her research interests include metamaterials, millimeter/terahertz active and passive devices, reconfigurable antennas, sensors, biomedical applications for terahertz radiation, and engineering education.

Kathryn Frens is a Ph.D. candidate in the Boone and Crockett Quantitative Wildlife Center in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. Her dissertation research focuses on the relationships among land-use policy, biodiversity, and human socioeconomic systems on mixed-use rural landscapes. As a FAST fellow, Kathryn will investigate reading completion and its connection to learning and grades in the undergraduate classroom. She hopes to find out why students do or don’t read, and how time invested in reading pays off in increased understanding of a topic.

Nicole L. Geske is an Anthropology Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University, specializing in mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology. Her research interests include the modification and use of human remains and reconstructing taphonomic and mortuary events. She is also interested in human anatomy and medical school education, especially in regards to active learning and flipped classroom design.

Molly J. Good is a doctoral student and Taylor and Regier Great Lakes Fisheries Fellow in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University. She completed her B.S. in the same department in 2011, and she completed her Master’s degree in Marine and Environmental Affairs at the University of Washington in 2013. As a doctoral student, Molly studies the role and efficacy of law enforcement in the multi-jurisdictional management of Great Lakes fisheries. She has strong aspirations to teach at the collegiate level, where she hopes to serve as a mentor for other students with similar passions for conservation and sustainability research. As a FAST Fellow, Molly will explore the effects of different teaching styles on student learning and satisfaction in an introductory fisheries and wildlife course – the very first course that she took as an undergraduate in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife years ago!

Matthew Kolp is a 5th year Ph.D. student dually enrolled in the department of Plant Biology and in the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior program.  He received his B.S. from MSU in Horticulture in 2012.  Currently, his research focuses on questions in microbial ecology, specifically the fungal community within diseased bark tissue of the American chestnut, and how certain fungi may influence disease.  Matt has been a graduate teaching assistant for several semesters, and as a FAST fellow, he will explore how a plant taxonomy course can be changed from a lab focused in memorization and lecturing, to an inquiry-based classroom where students are encouraged to ask and test questions about the big ideas in plant systematics.

Tayo Moss is a doctoral student in the Department of Kinesiology within the College of Education at Michigan State University. Tayo graduated from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan in 2013 with a B.S. in Psychology, and a minor in Communication. He continued his education at Michigan State University and attained a M.S. in Kinesiology. Currently, he is a third year PhD student under Distinguished Professor, Dr. Deborah Feltz. His research involves understanding how can motivational implications of diversity in group contexts affects performance. Throughout Tayo’s graduate school career, he has been involved in many different experiences that have broadened his teaching abilities. He has taught over thirty different courses in the Kinesiology Department, including being the primary instructor for three different lecture courses (KIN 424, 345, 121). As a FAST Fellow, he hopes to find plausible teaching methodologies to utilize the diversity in the classroom to enhance the learning environment

Yujin Park is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Horticulture. She earned her B.S. in Architectural Engineering from Yonsei University, Korea and her M.S. in Horticultural Science from Seoul National University, Korea. With great joy of working with ornamental plants, her Ph.D. research investigates how radiation spectrums influence plant architecture and photosynthesis of ornamental seedlings. In addition to her research, she is interested in developing interesting lectures and hand-on activities related to plants and horticulture. During her Ph.D. program, she developed and gave lectures, such as “Plant Circadian Clock” in Biology of Plants (PLB 203 class at MSU) and “Beautiful Color of Flowers” at MSU Middle School Girls Math and Science Day and several science fairs to improve students and general public’s interests and understanding of horticulture. She believes well-designed educational programs will generate enthusiasm about horticulture for students and increase their desire to learn and participate. She also believes well-designed educational programs should include effective teaching strategies which can provide student-centered experiences where all students can actively participate, contribute, and learn based on their interests and questions. For her FAST project, she will investigate teaching strategies which can encourage the active participation of every single student in classroom activities and promote classroom equity in active-learning course.

Klara Scharnagl is a fourth year Ph.D. student in Plant Biology and the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior program. While she is very passionate about her dissertation research on the latitudinal gradient of epiphytic lichens, she is equally passionate about science education and outreach. She is engaged in multiple initiatives across campus to improve science education and outreach to people of all ages, including participating in campus events like Darwin Discovery Day, Middle School Girls’ Math and Science Day, and Science Festival. As a FAST fellow, she is seeking ways to improve undergraduate ability in interpreting scientific figures. She is using a three pronged approach that includes having students in an undergraduate Plant Ecology course collect and analyze their own data, present and interpret scientific figures, and discuss scientific figures in the classroom.

Fangyi Shen is a fifth year organic chemistry Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University. As an MSU undergraduate, this “Spartan” was challenged most by our organic chemistry course, which the course filled with bunch of “letters” that didn't spell any word in the English language or reactions had been presented by "chicken wire". When she began serving as an organic teaching assist, she realized that many of her students were following the same path that she struggled on before when they faced those “foreign” structures. Being a TA also made her realize that she likes teaching and that she should pursue a teaching career.  In doing so, she wants to develop and test different approaches to delivering the content of organic chemistry with the aim of being more effective by better understanding how students learn. And she believes participation in the FAST fellowship program will help train her as an independent thinking teacher. 

John Tran Born and raised in San Jose, California, John completed his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Davis before coming to Michigan State University to pursue his Ph.D. in Plant Biology. His interest in teaching began during his time in community college when he worked as a peer leader for the Peer-Led-Team-Learning (PLTL) program at San Jose City College where he led weekly review sessions for small student learning groups in introductory chemistry courses. His experience in facilitating learning communities has led him to ask questions about the kinds of assessments that can be made for learning communities. He is exploring those themes for his teaching as research project.

Marisel Villafañe-Delgado is a fourth year Ph.D. student in Electrical Engineering.  She received her M.S. and B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland in 2013 and the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez in 2011, respectively, and the B.S. in Electronics Engineering Technology from the University of Puerto Rico at Bayamón in 2008.  Her current research focuses on the study of functional connectivity networks in the human brain.  As a FAST fellow, she is interested in implementing effective teaching techniques in courses that rely heavily on mathematical concepts learned in prior courses, which usually brings a limitation for students.

Dan Weller is a materials science and engineering Ph.D. candidate at Michigan State University with a passion for teaching and engineering education. His disciplinary research involves using earth-abundant semiconducting compounds for thermoelectric energy conversion. Additionally, he has studied a variety of phenomena including nanoparticle synthesis, magnetic materials, and relationships between materials’ morphology/microstructure and non-equilibrium growth conditions. Before beginning his graduate studies in 2014, he studied at Saginaw Valley State University and earned a double major B.S. in chemical physics and A.C.S. chemistry. In 2013, he completed his honors thesis on “Contactless Resistivity via an LC Oscillator,” and he continued to do research with scientists from Ames Laboratory and Iowa State University before pursuing a graduate degree. Ultimately, Dan hopes to teach materials science and engineering at the college-level as a university professor.