Parker Bamback ’18, a Biology major from San Antonio, TX, found that pursuing a teaching capstone could be an opportunity to dig deeper into his interest in genetics; to learn more about a certain topic and share his findings with others.
A Capstone is a culminating experience that requires students to create a project that integrates and applies what they have learned in a practical project. The Undergraduate Teacher Scholar Capstone is a two-semester experience in which students can choose between two options. Students may either develop a new 1 credit seminar (small, interactive) course, or develop educational material to enhance an already existing course. Each option requires the Undergraduate Teacher Scholar (UTS) to identify a faculty mentor who will work with the UTS to prepare educational material during the first semester and will be the instructor of record during the second semester.
Parker Bamback found a way to mediate between his difficulty with public speaking and his love for tutoring, while challenging himself and expanding his passion for helping others learn. Bamback chose to explore the field of genetics, “I enjoyed the genetics course I took my freshman year at A&M but wished it had covered the heritability of different diseases and traits. When the time came to begin thinking about my teaching capstone, the idea of creating a course covering the specific topics of genetics that most interested me was an exciting one. In deciding what heritable diseases to focus on, I began with the medical history questions asked at the doctor’s office,” said Bamback.
Why is this topic important? How much do most people know about the topic? What role do you think this issue will play in the 21st century?
Most people understand that genes influence everything from an individual’s looks and talents to the likelihood of developing certain diseases. This connection between genes and disease is one reason heritability is important. In 2017, the first human embryo with a heritable gene mutation was corrected in utero. In the future, correcting heritable diseases could be the new norm, which also means genetic engineering will be at the forefront of 21st century political and ethical debates.
Have you experienced more confidence as you build expertise on your topic? If so, how has this become evident? If not, what do you think would make you feel more confident?
I definitely became more confident in my topic through the exercise of writing lectures. Their format became more consistent throughout the semester and my assurance grew with each subsequent lecture. From the feedback I received after the first exam, I became more confident on what to emphasize in class and how to structure the remaining exams. I also became more comfortable speaking in front of others and have significantly improved my ability to convey information.
How are you incorporating your previous learning in this project? Have you noticed connections between your work and current events?
The information I learned in previous genetics and biology courses was necessary for the creation of my class. Currently, Congress and governments worldwide are debating regulation on genetic engineering, and law enforcement has recently begun tracking familial DNA to solve crimes. It has become popular in pop culture too. The recent Star Trek movies have genetically engineered villains and even the Simpsons have an episode where a character performs genetic engineering on himself.
If you could offer some advice for aspiring Capstone students, what would you tell them?
I recommend the teaching capstone even if you do not have any interest in becoming a teacher. It not only taught me valuable leadership and time management skills but also made me more comfortable with public speaking, which is valuable in any career.
To learn more about Capstone opportunities at Texas A&M, visit http://capstones.tamu.edu.