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Teaching personal statement (chemistry)

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  • Published: 9th July 2019
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A great teacher is like a great artist who uses basic tools to transform raw materials into valuable assets of society. However, great artists may not have the best tools or best skills – they are recognized because of their passion and their unique perspective of the world. Great teachers are not just ones who transmit information, teach skills, and help students earn the best grades. They are those who share their passion for knowledge and curiosity with their students, inspire the students’ creativity, develop their critical thinking ability, and prepare them for the complex world they will face after stepping out of campus. Teaching is part of the process in discovery and it also provides an opportunity to learn, where knowledge and critical thinking are shared by teachers with their students, and enthusiasm and creative ideas are shared by students with their teachers. Reflecting on my own experience as student, I am truly inspired by the good role-model of my mentors and hope to relay this process to the younger generation and to influence their lives through my teaching and advising.

My undergraduate major is in chemical education, which provides me fundamental pedagogical principles to engage and guide my future teaching practice in undergrad levels. For classroom teaching, my goals are not only to give clear and insightful lectures, but also to motivate students’ enthusiasm and encourage discussion and interaction in the lectures. This provides students the skills in communication, critical thinking and problem-solving, which are necessary training to pursue future professional careers. For mentoring student research, my goal is to guide them in research lab and motivate the students to give their best efforts. As students come in with different background and interests, I will provide them with the freedom to explore and to think about problems in new ways. In the mean time, I will also actively engage in their projects and guide students’ discoveries. The value of research advising is so rewarding because we continue generating new ideas during the discovery process and push forward the research.

Teaching Experience

I have gained valuable experience as a teaching assistant at Iowa State University to lead recitation sections for General Chemistry lecture twice a week.(1998-1999) This was my first time teaching college students, facing a new culture and using a foreign language. I was very excited, but at the same time a little nervous. Because I was trying my best, showing genuine enthusiasm for the course material and caring about the students as individuals, I got excellent feedback from the freshmen students. One student even wrote a long letter attached to the last page of the homework assignment and expressed his gratitude to my teaching which had extended his horizons in pursuing science.

I moved on to be a postdoctoral associate At ETH Zurich, Switzerland (2003-2005) and 30% of my time was devoted to teaching, including recitation, project design, testing and grading. I taught four semesters in General Chemistry, Advanced Spectroscopy, and Thermodynamics. In Europe, their education system is different from US system. Teaching responsibility is heavy and involves various aspects of teaching, not only just serving as assistant for grading and recitation, but also required to design a mid-term exam as well as small project study. At that time, I was facing another challenge that most of the classes were taught in German, their official language at school. I managed to learn my third language German while teaching small classes in English, grading and giving exam in German. I noticed, in China and US system, most of the exams were given as multiple-choice format. Sometimes students just memorize material instead of learning it. However, in Switzerland, students were encouraged to show their logistic thinking and how to deduce the conclusion from what they understand. I am grateful that I have experienced different culture of educational systems and I believe this will help me to incorporate the advantages and avoid pitfalls in developing my teaching strategies.

During my years as Assistant Professor at Emory, I also served as ad hoc facilitator teaching Biomedical Engineering (BME) undergrad course Problem Based Learning (PBL) at Georgian Institute of Technology (2011-2012). PBL represents a paradigm shift from traditional classroom/lecture teaching to student-centered pedagogy in which students learn about a subject through the experience of solving a problem. I found this type of small classroom discussion is very engaging, which can identify the talents and potential of individual students. Until now I still stay connected with some of the students in my classes and have written recommendation letters for three female students. One was accepted by Stanford Medical School, another was admitted in SMART Defense Scholorship. The most rewarding part as a professor is to observe the development and the success of my students.

Throughout the past nine years at Emory Univ., I have helped advising and mentoring several students with different levels of educational background in research projects. Like good medical care, teaching is a deeply interpersonal interaction; computers and other instructional technology may enhance it, but they will never supplant it. The basic human connection between mentor and student is an integral part of teaching. And while students may acquire facts and information from technological sources, they acquire authentic knowledge and ultimately wisdom from teachers. All in all, I believe I possess the assets necessary to succeed as both a teacher and an advisor.

Teaching Interest.

My multidisciplinary background and research experience enable me to teach a broad range of courses at the undergraduate level in Chemistry. I have extensive knowledge of general chemistry, advanced spectroscopy, physical chemistry and analytical instrumentation. Also, as a biomedical nanotechnology researcher, I am able to lecture on subjects like inorganic chemistry, biochemistry, biosensors and nanodevices, analytical chemistry, and molecular imaging. I learned from my own experience that crossing boundaries between physical science and biomedical engineering is very prolific. I can envision myself teaching an interdisciplinary course for a pool of students from a variety of backgrounds.

I will try to keep the atmosphere in my classrooms warm and light, even when the material is abstract and sometime intimidating. Chemistry is not words and symbols on a chalk board, it is seeing chemistry and doing chemistry. The world around us is chemical and we ourselves are constructed of chemicals. It is this integration of chemistry and life that I seek to communicate to my students. My teaching goals are to inspire students to do their best and to inspire them to develop a curiosity about the world in molecular terms

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