As a teacher I believe strongly in fostering students’ curiosity and facilitating their own natural inclination for learning. I also favor a participatory approach to the teaching of science, so that students learn by direct involvement in research from the earliest possible opportunity. At Yale, graduate students at both the master’s and doctoral level have conducted research under my direction, and are encouraged to contribute creatively to all phases of investigations and they have responded with dedication and motivation. As a result they co-author publications, and present results at national scientific meetings. I also work with undergraduates and even high school students, in some instances. Another important component of my teaching strategy is to use problem solving. Only by applying what they have learned in an unfamiliar context can students go beyond memorization to consolidate and crystallize loosely related facts into true comprehension.
I strive to serve as a role model, revealing my passion for science in order to excite the students’ own enthusiasm. I find teaching at Yale especially rewarding. Being naturally bright and interested, the students enter readily into independent work, enjoy the challenges of problem solving, and respond well to enthusiastic teachers. Finally, for me as a professor, teaching is an opportunity to broaden my perspective and to stay current outside my immediate areas of expertise, in fields where the exigencies of research would not otherwise allow me the luxury of study.
Specific courses I teach every year include Biogeochemistry and Pollution, an introductory, graduate-level course on the natural chemical functioning of ecosystems and how natural processes and cycles are perturbed by human influences. A second key course is Aquatic Chemistry, an advanced course on chemical equilibria in aquatic environments. The emphasis is on developing the ability to predict the aqueous chemistry of natural and perturbed systems based on knowledge of their composition and physical condition. My third regular course is Caribbean Coastal Development, which examines how activities on land have an almost immediate impact on the near coastal zone in the Caribbean. This capstone course takes a holistic approach, but uses sediment erosion, transport, and delivery as a unifying thread. The course has a heavy field emphasis, culminating in a one week field trip to St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. Periodically, I teach other courses, often with collaborators. Recent examples have included courses on restorative redevelopment of brownfields, and watershed cycling and processes.