Pedagogical Fellow Showcase: Greg Suryn

Greg SurynHeadshot

Greg Suryn is a Ph.D. candidate in the Chemistry Department. He served as a Pedagogical Fellow (PF) during the 2015–2016 school year, as well as returning as a Senior PF to help with the TA Professional Development Program (TAPDP) in 2016. His chemistry research is in the area of natural product synthesis and organic chemistry methods development. He is also interested in chemistry education and outreach, and has been involved with the UCI Chemistry Outreach team to try and inspire the next generation of scientists. Greg answers our PF Showcase questions:


What motivates you to invest so much in your teaching?

Organic chemistry is typically seen as a “scary” class used to weed out the pre-med students, and whenever I mention that I teach organic chemistry most people say it was one of the hardest classes they have ever taken. I believe that when organic chemistry is taught right it can be an understandable, enjoyable, and rewarding class for students. The time invested into critiquing the effectiveness of my methods, discussing pedagogy with other instructors, and revamping my strategies allows me to design courses that are more exciting and engaging. I was personally inspired by my college professor to go into organic chemistry, so I strive to do the same as an instructor for my students.

What did you get out of the PF Program?

As a TA I was pretty comfortable talking in front of students, but only if I was given the material to do so. The PF program has given me the confidence and tools to design, evaluate, and implement a class from the ground up (thanks TAPDP preparation!). The PF Program also exposed me to various teaching styles and strategies from other disciplines (and awesome people in those disciplines), many of which I have implemented into the courses that I teach. Using workshops in TAPDP from other disciplines sparked my interest in exploring educational techniques outside of the traditional STEM literature. Also, as I look for jobs and fill out applications I feel that I am more prepared and a stronger candidate due to the advice from De, Danny, and my fellow PFs during 390B.

Did the PF Program open up new opportunities for you?

Without the PF Program I probably would not have been asked to be a part of a CIRTL student advisory committee, and I definitely would not have been able to give as much input into this advisory committee without the pedagogy mindset I developed during the PF Program. I feel that the PF Program has also given me an advantage when looking for jobs post-grad school since I can now include job positions that are less pure “lecture” and more “chemical education”.

What would you tell someone who is interested in the PF Program?

 I would tell them that the whole experience is definitely more work than you expect coming in, but that the effort that you put in and the work that you do is some of the most relevant/rewarding work I’ve done in graduate school. Everything that I did felt intricately tied to my future as a chemistry instructor, and because of that I was excited to go to every class.

What three words would your closest friends use to describe you?

Friendly, active, and corny/goofy

It’s obvious that you devote a lot of your time to your scholarship and teaching.  What do you do for fun and relaxation?

My biggest hobby is biking. I started road biking when I first came to UCI for grad school and it has been a great way to stay active and explore the area. I also got into mountain biking during my second year, and it has ended up overtaking road biking as my favorite of the two. My second hobby is photography. I self-taught myself in college and have been enjoying it ever since. I tend to take macro and landscape shots, since that gives me a sense of relaxation and awe about the world/micro-world around me. I was fortunate that this also led to my involvement as the videographer/editor for the DanceChemistry educational videos.

What are some ways outside of TA-ing that you’d recommend for graduate students/post docs that need teaching experience?

I have had the opportunity to be involved in the Chemistry Outreach Program here at UCI throughout my whole graduate career. In addition to being just plain fun to do, it has given me practice talking about science and scientific topics to an audience with a wide range of prior knowledge. This has translated into the classroom where I have to help students of varying skill/knowledge level try to understand the subject at hand. I would recommend anyone to look into what types of outreach opportunities their department may have.

Click to learn more about the Pedagogical Fellows program.