Graduate Students Honored For Teaching Excellence

Two graduate students in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences – Nitika, who is pursuing her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences, and Caroline Brinegar, who is pursuing her master’s degree in Geography – were recently designated UNC Charlotte’s most Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistants.

The pair were recognized remotely as part of the University’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.  Each received the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award, which includes $1,000 and a plaque.

The Graduate School presents the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award annually to honor top teaching assistants who are nominated by faculty supervisors for their work.  The awards, presented at the doctoral and master’s degrees levels, recognize outstanding and innovative teaching techniques,

Nitika is a fourth-year doctoral student in the Biological Sciences program.  In addition to teaching classes on topics including genetics, she has published nine high-impact peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals. Her research involves understanding the regulation of a key protein in cancer.

“She was the first student at UNC Charlotte to master CRISPR technology and now trains graduate students and PIs from other labs in cancer genomes,” said Andrew Truman, Biological Sciences assistant professor. CRISPR technology is a tool for editing genomes that allows researchers to alter DNA sequences and modify gene function. PIs are principal investigators — people who are leading research projects.

Caroline Brinegar is a first generation, non-traditional master’s student in the geography program.  She has worked as a teaching assistant as both an undergraduate and graduate student.

“The comments provided by students paint a picture of someone who cares about teaching and her students, provides a supportive and helpful classroom environment, is conscientious and respectful in her interactions with students, and is an excellent instructor,” said William Garcia, senior lecturer in the Geography and Earth Sciences Department. Brinegar repeatedly receives the highest evaluations among the teaching assistants, and has some of the highest evaluations of any teaching assistant he has supervised, Garcia said.

Graduate Teaching Assistants play an important role, assisting department chairpersons, faculty members, and professional staff by performing teaching or teaching-related duties, including teaching lower level courses, developing teaching materials, preparing and giving examinations, and grading examinations or papers.

Graduate students interested in obtaining a graduate research or teaching assistantship should contact their academic department directly. The Graduate School’s Funding for Graduate Education webpages have information about administrative assistantship opportunities.