Pedagogical Fellow Showcase: Minhan Dinh

Minhan Dinh

Minhan Dinh is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Santa Ana College. She has served as a Pedagogical Fellow during the 2015-2016 academic year. Minhan received her doctorate in Neurobiology and Behavior in 2017 with an emphasis in neurodevelopmental and hearing biology research. At Santa Ana College, Minhan primarily teaches introductory biology for non-majors in addition to the cellular and molecular biology course for major students. Minhan answers our PF Showcase questions:

What motivates you to invest so much in your teaching?

I am always trying to challenge myself to be a better instructor to the students. Even though I teach largely the same subject each semester, I try to look for new ways to enhance the learning experience for students. Since STEM retention is a big issue for biology education, I believe that as instructors, we should really try to find innovative, interesting ways to reach out to students. This can include finding relatability in class topics to current events to bridge concepts. It can feel very time consuming, but when you see the “a-ha!” look on a student’s face, or get positive feedback from the students, it makes the investment worth it.

What did you get out of the PF Program? 

The PF program really opened my eyes to good pedagogical practices for effective teaching. Not only did we learn the principles behind active learning, but we also understood the importance of the history of teaching. The PF program also helped me cultivate new friendships across campus and made me feel a stronger sense of belonging at the UCI campus with other individuals who love teaching.

Did the PF Program open up new opportunities for you? 

Definitely. I was very fortunate to have the PF program as one of the highlights of my graduate career. When applying to community college positions, having the PF program as one of my teaching experiences really strengthened my application. It was especially helpful given the fact that my community college teaching was more limited than most of the other applicants. Interviewers were very interested in the PF program and found my knowledge of educational tools very useful. Not only was I able to discuss current challenges in STEM education, but preparing my job applications (including statement of teaching philosophy) was much simpler and not as stressful as I thought it would be!

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

I would strongly recommend anyone with a genuine interest in teaching or desire to improve his or her teaching experience to apply to the PF program. They should meet with a PF and read up on the program to get more information about just how valuable this type of program is not only for their graduate career, but for careers beyond the degree. Even if you see yourself at a research institution or in industry, having teaching experience would be invaluable!

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

Introverted, creative, thoughtful

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

I love being outdoors and spend my free time crafting. I enjoy sketching, painting, and even creating my own stamp erasers. I enjoy running and cycling and begin my day usually with a morning run or cycle session. I also consider myself a foodie and enjoy being creative in the kitchen.

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

I think that if teaching is something you are interested in, get experience teaching in different environments (any kind!) and understand the type of work environment or responsibilities that come with being a teaching professor – it is not just teaching! Teaching can be at the elementary school, for a museum, at a college, or at a university, so it is important to keep an open mind and be honest with yourself about what type of lifestyle you want. If you can, contact teaching professionals and get a feel for what it means to be a teaching professor – teach part time if you are able to! If you are unable to teach, I would suggest shadowing an instructor.



Click to learn more about the Pedagogical Fellows program.