PhD Profile: Dr. Devin Camenares

posted May 7, 2014, 7:30 AM by Nadia Jaber   [ updated May 7, 2014, 7:32 AM ]

Dr. Devin Camenares is a newly appointed Assistant Professor at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn. This semester he is teaching Human Anatomy and Physiology. He graduated with a PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology from Stony Brook University in 2013.

How did you decide to become a teacher? I enjoyed several aspects of being a graduate student. Of course, I loved doing independent research; it is hard to earn a Ph.D. if you are not passionate about this side of science. However, I found that I often enjoyed communicating my findings and talking about science just as much. I especially enjoyed my teaching experiences, both as a teaching assistant and while mentoring undergraduate students in the laboratory. After graduating, I explored these interests by authoring a blog about science (Just Me and Eubacteria) and getting involved in teaching as an Adjunct Professor at Suffolk Community College and Touro College of Health Sciences.

How did you land the interview for your current position? Although I tried many different strategies for obtaining interviews, my interview for the Assistant Professor position at Kingsborough Community College did not require special effort or connections; I applied via their online submission system and received a call for the interview a few months later. My previous adjunct teaching experience, which I secured in a similar way, helped to give me the necessary qualifications to get the position at Kingsborough. The interview included both a series of standard questions, as well as a demonstration portion in which I had to deliver a 15 minute lecture on a particular topic. I'm sure that my demonstration was critical to the ultimate decision to offer me the position.

What is your job like as an Assistant Professor? Most of my time is spent on preparation of lessons and delivering these lectures in front of a classroom for lecture or laboratory sessions. I also have to grade papers and hold office hours. In addition, I attend departmental meetings to discuss collective efforts to assess student learning in specific areas, as well as the merits and problems with different teaching strategies. As I grow into my role at Kingsborough, I will eventually be spending more time on administrative duties in the department as well as developing my own research program.

Does anyone mentor you during this early stage? I don’t have an assigned mentor, but I do have a set of helpful colleagues that provide tips and advice. Efforts to assess student learning and improve teaching practices are coordinated and shared among the department. Senior professors set the basic curriculum for the courses, and have provided guidance specific to the class I teach. Finally, I have been observed by my department chair and have had subsequent discussions about ways to improve my teaching.

What skills do you use for your current position? I use a wide variety of skills in my current position; some are important when performing in front of a classroom, while others are necessary for the preparation for those lectures. Effective communication skills, including an ability to rephrase ideas, think on your feet, and properly adjust your pace are very important. Organization skills are also important, to help you manage all of preparation and assessment effectively. Rather than be a dull, repetitive lecturer who simply recites the same lecture material every semester, Kingsborough gives me the academic freedom to be creative, and explore new ways of both helping the students learn and assessing their performance. Many of these skills are the same that I used as a graduate student (in different forms of course).

What are the biggest challenges of being an Assistant Professor? The biggest challenge in my career development as a teaching professional is ironically one of the best features of the career: the academic freedom and hands-off approach. You are not given a set way to prepare and deliver your lectures. Of course, you are provided with some departmental guidelines and the resources you need to develop effective lessons, but there is no set formula on how to teach or how to improve. This is an exciting aspect of the job, but it also means that honing your craft as a teacher lies mostly on your shoulders. At Kingsborough, I have benefited from having a nurturing department and friendly colleagues, always ready to offer suggestions. However, as a professor you are alone at the head of the classroom, and you need to apply constant effort to ensure that you are improving your own teaching practices.

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