April 24, 2018
Murphy Award: Henry Chang
Five teachers have received the 2018 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award in Memory of Charles B. Murphy. This week, Purdue Today will feature Q&A's on each of the recipients. This profile focuses on Henry Chang, associate professor of biological sciences.
Years at Purdue: 12.
Teaching interests: I teach undergraduates and graduate students on using Drosophila to understand the mechanism and cell biology of developmental signaling.
On what inspired him to teach: In looking back at my own experience, I have had many excellent teachers. Without their help, I would not be where I am today. I feel great satisfaction in helping students learn genetics and seeing them go on to do great things.
On what makes a great lecture: For BIOL 241, my best lectures are typically those when I am most familiar with the course materials. For example, I was trained as a Drosophila (fruit fly) person, and when I discussed fly genetics and development, I believe that my enthusiasm for topics came through. In addition, I tinker with my lectures regularly to make sure the materials are accessible to students.
On why he chose to serve as a research mentor to undergraduate students: I approach biology as an experimental science and strongly believe that, for our students to succeed after Purdue, it is critical for them to have experience working at the bench. Their passion for research, work ethics, competency and ability to think critically and independently are all being assessed by mentors, and these evaluations will have more impacts on the student's career paths than course grades.
On what he wants his students to take away from his class: This is a tough question. Over the years, I have identified several learning objectives, including being able to map genes by meiotic recombination, being able to diagram transcription units, and being able to describe mutational analysis of gene regulation and development. But, in the grand scheme of things, I want students to enjoy and appreciate genetics, a discipline that is fundamental to biology and medical sciences. In addition, I teach genetics by describing landmark experiments. In doing so, I hope they appreciate how the information was generated and can learn to think critically about scientific questions.
On what receiving a Murphy Award means: I am humbled and honored to be recognized by the Murphy Award. This is the highest teaching honor at Purdue, and there are so many wonderful teachers here. The selection process is very competitive, and I feel very fortunate to be picked this year.
What his students say: “Dr. Chang has been one of the best professors I've had at Purdue. This has been my favorite class yet, while still being my most difficult as well. He has two office hours and two help sessions every week and I'm sure if a student couldn't make those times, he would find time to set aside to help that student. He has provided so much support and I've never been afraid to ask him a question. He is understanding and clearly loves what he is teaching, which motivates all of us to love it too. My respect for him has only grown throughout the semester.”
“He is a wonderful mentor. He truly respects all of his students and takes their questions and issues very seriously. I have never seen him dismiss a question as a stupid question through the entire semester. He also has great knowledge of the material and he also makes an effort to personally understand student's points of views and asks about other classes that we're taking. He gives great advice as well and doesn't hold back on his opinions. This was one of those classes where 1. I learned a tremendous amount about genetics, 2. I was motivated to do well on the exams because the professor knew me personally and cared very much for my academics, so I didn't want to disappoint, and 3. it made me genuinely interested in the field of biology once again. In essence, I think the professor made this class very much worth it.”