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Teaching Experience

I have experience teaching in the classroom and in outreach capacities. This page focuses on my teaching experience in the classroom.

Teaching Assistant: Biology/Zoology 102 at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Course Description

Biology/Zoology 102 is an introductory biology lab that explores the evolutionary history and tasks of staying alive in nine major animal groups.

When taught in-person, the course uses live and preserved animals to explore body plans and expose students to the wonderful life we share our planet with.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the class to switch gears and be offered in a virtual setting. Teaching and learning over Zoom has been a difficult experience for everyone involved, but I'm incredibly grateful to be a part of this class.

Students feed Aiptasia sp. brine shrimp during class

Topics Covered

The semester begins with an overview of evolution, natural selection, and tree thinking. Each week of the semester after that introduces a new phylum of animals, following the tree pictured on the right.

Each week we explore major tasks of "staying alive" and how each phylum accomplishes each of the major tasks:

  • Getting Nutrients

  • Gas Exchange

  • Excretion of Nitrogenous Waste

  • Reproduction

When discussing these topics, we consider body plan, type of symmetry, cephalization, and feeding strategy.

Evo Relationships.png

The class explores evolutionary relationships beginning with Porifera and ending with Chordata

My Experience with Teaching

Teaching has undoubtedly been one of my favorite experiences during graduate school. Exploring evolutionary relationships, particularly among animals and teaching undergraduates about the wonderful world of biology has been an absolute delight.

Transitioning to an online format due to the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly presented its challenges. It has been more difficult to connect with the students, which is my favorite part of teaching. However, it is encouraging to hear that students are still learning the material and enjoying the class.

Creating Graphics

Having taught this same class for a few semesters, I learned to anticipate some of the concepts students tended to struggle with more frequently. Below, I have included some diagrams/graphics I created to help students understand these more difficult concepts.


Cells produce nitrogenous waste during cellular processes, which needs to be excreted. In this case, it is via diffusion.

Protein Digestion.png

Proteins are made of individual amino acids that form a chain. During digestion, proteins are broken down into individual amino acids and produce ammonia (nitrogenous waste) as a byproduct. Ammonia buildup can be toxic, so cells need some way to dispose of ammonia (see: excretion).


Some animals, such as anemones, have an incomplete digestive tract. They bring food in and eliminate waste through the same opening.

Sexual reproduction

Sexual reproduction occurs any time there is the fusion of gametes (in this case, sperm and egg), resulting in a unique individual.

Hermaphroditic Reproduction

Hermaphroditic reproduction is still considered sexual reproduction because the fusion of sperm and egg occurs. The best case scenario for hermaphrodites is cross-fertilization, or the exchanging of sperm.

Tapeworm self-fertilization

In some cases, hermaphrodites may self-fertilize. Because there is the fusion of gametes, it is still sexual reproduction. In tapeworms, the mature proglottids have male and female reproductive organs, while gravid proglottids are full of fertilized eggs, ready to infect a new host.


Animals like nematodes have a complete digestive tract, in which food is brought in through the mouth and undigested wasted is eliminated via the anus.


Adorable Chick

​I absolutely loved Sam! She was so kind and knowledgeable! She encouraged questions and taught the subjects very well.

Image by Ruvim Miksanskiy

I love her! She even made her update emails interesting. She was able to help me engage in this course, and I am forever grateful.

Image by Nathan Anderson

Sam was really engaging and made the material seem more important to me than I originally thought it was. She answered questions very clearly.

Image by Deepak H Nath

I really enjoyed having Sam Vold as my instructor and she always made me feel comfortable and welcome, no matter what we were doing.

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