“Someone once told me that being a faculty member means committing to doing things that you’re not quite qualified to do yet,” Chong says. “Doing research means tackling areas that you will need to learn more about and build your confidence in.”
Chong makes daunting concepts accessible by providing students with multiple points of engagement: designing physical devices, applying math to theory and algorithms, or developing new approaches to software.
“We all have molecular engineering, physics, math, and computer science students taking my course, and that’s a good thing, because quantum systems are really a synthesis of all those disciplines,” Chong says.
This interdisciplinary approach is transferred to his laboratory, where he supervises 10 graduate students and two postdoctoral researchers. Each researcher is expected to oversee their own project, but also support the work of the other, from material to theory.
“I definitely give them a lot of space to do what they want to do,” Chong said. “There has never been a day that I didn’t think I was in the right job for me. My students can see that I really enjoy my job, and I think that’s led many to become teachers and researchers.
Megan McNerney, Associate Professor of Pathology
The quest for knowledge is what underlies Assoc. Professor Megan McNerney’s work in cancer biology and her teaching.
“My hope is always that at the end of the course, students appreciate how little we understand about the genome, but how exhilarating it is to study,” she says.
The same way scientists slowly approach questions about nature, cancer and the body, this is how she runs her lab.
“My approach to teaching, in and out of class, is to foster independent critical thinking in students. It’s more Socratic than didactic,” she says, referring to the separation between the formal teaching of the subject and a freer style that starts with asking questions.
The approach means students at all levels receive equal attention and encouragement to diversify, according to the students who nominated it for the award. In McNerney’s lab, everyone’s experiences, ideas, growth, and opportunities matter. “She’s incredibly good at leading her lab’s projects, and it’s so clear that she goes above and beyond to read and understand our field; and yet she is always ready to consider even the ideas of the most junior students,” one wrote.