The Science Educator Certificate is a 2 year program for life-science PhD candidates preparing for teaching-intensive careers. Students can apply to the program at the end of their second or third year in graduate school once they have completed their PhD candidacy requirements. (Skip to application instructions or read on for the program details)

The program provides 3 students per year with teaching experience under the guidance of a master teacher, as well as coursework in pedagogy and assessment.

The Science Educator Certificate is composed of four basic components:

  1. courses and workshops on incorporating active learning techniques into the science classroom
  2. practical experience teaching undergraduates with guidance and feedback from experienced teaching mentors,
  3. opportunity to network with the undergraduate educator community locally and at a national conference (American Society of Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators – ASMCUE),
  4. assistance with development of individual development plans (IDPs)

This program is designed to take place primarily during years 3 and 4 (or years 4 and 5) of graduate school. Once selected, you will initiate the program as outlined in the time line below.

Program Details

Pedagogy Training. Participants in the program will obtain pedagogy training in two different forms. In fall of the first year of the program you will take a course on the elements of scientific teaching offered by Dr. Jenn Coble. In the summer between the first and second year of the program you will participate in a series of workshops presented by teaching experts from within and outside of UNC.

Teaching Practicum. Participants in the program will obtain hands on teaching experience through (a) two mentored classroom teaching experiences, and (b) through preparing a lab skills module as a team which you will then present as a group to undergraduates at local colleges. Your teaching mentor will be available to meet with you several times throughout the year to discuss your career goals, how to meet them, and your progress in the program. Your teaching mentor also will assist with identifying appropriate courses for you to participate in for your teaching practicum. During the teaching practicum you will be expected to aid in development of the syllabus, attend the course to observe the teaching mentor’s pedagogy style, and teach at least 2 times in the class. You will receive feedback from the instructor on content, presentation, student engagement, etc.

Attend a national educators meeting. One of the best of these meetings is sponsored by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE), and is held early summer each year.

Develop teaching statement and portfolio. During the final year as a PhD candidate, you will necessarily be focusing on your research and dissertation completion. Therefore, the demands of this program are minimal during this time. However, this is also the period of time when you will be applying for jobs or teaching postdoc programs. To assist you in your career development and job search, consultants from the Center for Faculty Excellence will be available to coach you on creating a teaching portfolio and teaching statement.

Individual Development Plans (IDPs). Numerous studies show that students that set goals and periodically evaluate those goals are more successful (see Davis, G. 2005. Doctors without orders. American Scientist 93(3, supplement). Thus, part of the program is to work with the participants as well as your research and teaching mentors to develop an IDP in order to (a) help you stay on track towards timely graduation, (b) help you achieve your highest potential as a researcher and educator, (c) help you identify gaps between your training and the requirements of your intended career, and (d) establish a lifelong habit of using IDPs in developing your own career and guiding the undergraduates you will mentor. IDP meetings will take place at the beginning of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th year of graduate school and again at the time of graduation.

Funding Details

Thanks to significant funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and the UNC Office of Graduate Education, students accepted into the program will receive partial stipend support during their first two years in the program. This support consists of $5000 for two years that will be applied to the student’s stipend (the award will not increase the stipend). All costs associated with attending one National Educators Meeting are also covered.

How to Apply

The application deadline for the Science Educator Certificate is the end of the day Monday, July 16th, 2012. The application requirements are:

  1. a copy of your current CV,
  2. a list of the graduate courses you have taken with grades earned (an unofficial transcript or print out from your Student Service Manager is ideal)
  3. a 1-page statement of why you are interested in the program and your current career goal(s), and
  4. a letter from your dissertation advisor stating their support of your participation in the program

All application components should be emailed to Patrick Brandt ( Applications will be evaluated by a panel consisting of program leadership and representatives from our Advisory Council. Decisions of the review panel will be announced on August 1st, 2012.

Please direct questions about the program to Patrick Brandt ( or Virginia Miller.

Program Leadership

Dr. Virginia Miller, Professor of Genetics, Associate Dean of Graduate Education
Dr. Patrick Brandt, Director of Science, Training, and Diversity

Advisory Council

Dr Gidi Shemmer
Dr. Corey Johnson
Dr. Jean Desaix
Dr. Kelly Hogan