Throughout my life as a student, I have always admired my excellent school teachers and university professors. I especially enjoyed the enthusiasm that emanated from some professors as they were vividly explaining a subject. One could easily tell that they had such a passion and love for what they were teaching. They have all inspired me to love a teaching and an academic career. I also want to be able to inspire and educate young and fresh minds. There is nothing comparable to sharing the knowledge you love because knowledge can only be valuable if it is shared. My experience as an Associate Professor at Indian Institute of Technology (Banaras Hindu University), Varanasi has deepened further my passion for teaching.
I am interested in teaching pharmacology courses at the undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels. My education and teaching experience in pharmacology include general pharmacology, neuropharmacology, behavioral pharmacology, molecular and clinical pharmacology, recent advances in pharmacology, evaluation of drug activities, human physiology, toxicology, and alternatives to animal experiments through simulated experiments. At the graduate and postgraduate levels, I would like to teach courses and conduct seminars in the aforementioned areas.
A teacher should be well equipped to convey in clear and appealing ways relevant knowledge, to stimulate and excite students about the course materials, and to focus on teaching students how to acquire knowledge as opposed to just learning facts.
My experiences in teaching have allowed me to exercise, sharpen, and appreciate more and more these skills. My first exposure to teaching was as research scholar at Department of Pharmaceutics, Indian Institute of Technology, (Banaras Hindu University), Varanasi, India where I lectured one day a week. I served as a teaching assistant during my doctoral research for theory and practical courses of pharmacology. My duties included holding office hours and leading weekly lab sessions. This experience has been very enjoyable and gratifying. It was such a good exercise to be able to teach students materials I had learned recently but this time from a different perspective. I learned that sometimes it takes several ways to show the same concepts to different students. Later on, after serving couple of years in pharmaceutical companies in India and Texas Tech University in United States, I have been appointed directly as Associate Professor of Pharmacology at Banaras Hindu University. I was given the opportunity to be solely responsible for teaching the pharmacology courses for graduate (BO-202, PH-2204, PH-3104, PH-3203 & PH-3403), postgraduate (PH-5131, PH-5132, PH-5231 & PH-5232) and doctoral (PH-7121 & PH-7202) students of pharmacy.
I have enjoyed every moment I spent during my teaching assignments as an Associate Professor. I have also enjoyed mentoring and advising students. The one-to-one interaction with students is very important to answer to students’ particular needs that cannot be fulfilled during regular class hours. I learned from my exposure to various groups of students from different levels and backgrounds, that it is important to adapt the teaching style to fit different categories of students.
I believe that learning becomes most efficient if it can appeal to students at a personal level. Students learn better when they are actively engaged with the learning process at both a personal and an intellectual level. It is important to engage students in classroom discussions invite and encourage students to volunteer to the board and attempt to solve specific problems, stimulate students’ interest and imagination by drawing from real-world examples, and guide their reflection on the process.
From my past teaching experience, I have found that encouraging students to take personal notes in class is a very useful practice. It helps them assimilate better the class material. I also believe in the open-book exam philosophy as it gives the teacher the opportunity to come up with interesting questions that evaluate how far the students have learned the concepts as opposed to how well they learned by heart certain facts.
Pharmacology is the study of the effects of chemical agents of therapeutic value or with the potential toxicity on biological systems. It includes two closely associated areas: pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics. This aspect needs to be emphasized while teaching different topics such as neuropharmacology, behavioral pharmacology, cardiovascular pharmacology, biochemical & cellular pharmacology, chemotherapy, clinical pharmacology, molecular pharmacology, endocrine pharmacology, systems & integrated pharmacology, drug metabolism & disposition, drug discovery, and drug development & regulatory affairs. Pharmacology encompasses all fields of biomedicine and is the main force behind many medical advances. The uniqueness of pharmacology is that it takes a proactive approach to biological systems. Pharmacology has a greater emphasis than other life sciences on eventually finding practical applications for research results. One way of achieving this is by giving several examples and showing the role that pharmacology plays important role in other disciplines such as biology and medicine. This helps put many of the necessary details in context and make them more meaningful to students.
At the undergraduate-level, there should be more emphasis on teaching the underlying principles of a subject rather than the simple mechanisms necessary to pass an exam. The problem-solving techniques and the fundamentals of a subject can forever benefit students in the rest of their professional lives. There should be also a great focus on the practicality of the topics by giving several interesting interactive assignments and encouraging hands-on experiments. Undergraduates should also be encouraged to participate in undergraduate-research projects. It is a very rewarding experience because it opens up their perspectives to the realm of research and it encourages them to pursue further a graduate degree. At the graduate-level, more focus should be given to collaboration, critical and creative thinking skills. Students should be exposed to existing research. They should also be encouraged to critically examine course-related research and to come up with their own ideas. This will greatly help them build the confidence necessary to formulate great ideas and propose innovative solutions.
There is also much to be gained from students collaborating with our research. For instance, in 2007, I supervised two undergraduate students of pharmacy at the Banaras Hindu University. The two projects I was involved in produced most interesting results. A project with Mridula Swayampakula contributed significantly to her manuscript published from Canada ( http://www.pharmainfo.net/reviews/comparative-anxiolytic-activity-mentat%C2%AE-and-shankhapushpi%C2%AE ). Mridula has also been involved in the writing of this manuscript, and with the experience of a variety of pharmacological techniques, she has successfully secured a PhD at University of Alberta, Canada. Radha Ganesan’s project on ‘the role of pharmacogenomics in drug development’ was based on collecting the information to keep abreast with the developments in pharmacogenomics area and got published ( http://www.pharmainfo.net/reviews/role-pharmacogenomics-drug-development ). She was also successful in getting admission at Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Ahmedabad, India. These lab projects equip the students with the skills required for a research career. Whether for academia or industry, the ability to write reports in a concise format is essential. Similar types of projects are progressing routinely in my lab and these students are benefited for their professional career.
Future Teaching Plans
As a teacher, I hope to advance the intellectual development of my students to the best of my abilities. I am confident that my past teaching experiences, strong academic background, and communication skills coupled with thorough preparation and enthusiasm for the subject will make me an excellent teacher. I would like to continue to provide the students an opportunity to understand the relevance of their studies, and to inspire them to engage research for their own curiosities. I am capable of teaching a variety of courses, including but not restricted to general pharmacology, neuropharmacology, drug evaluation, clinical pharmacology, and toxicity studies etc.
I will try linking my teaching and research to the industry through an Industrial Affiliates Program, IAP that I intend to establish. The aim of this IAP is to offer close cooperation between academia and industry. I plan to establish academic links with other faculty members and qualified people from industry to teach some of my courses. This may establish diversity of ideas and collaborative ventures.