2016 Election: Rayna Harris

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.


I am pursuing a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology at The University of Texas in Austin. My thesis research in Hans Hofmann’s lab focuses on understanding transcriptional responses to spatial learning with single neuron resolution.

Since 2012, I’ve been deeply involved with enhancing graduate student education through 1) the Neural Systems and Behavior (NS&B) course at the Marine Biological Laboratories and 2) the Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (CCBB) at UT Austin. At NS&B, I teach molecular approaches to neuroscience and supervise student research projects. With the CCBB, I organize workshops and symposia to promote sharing of ideas and expertise across departmental boundaries. It’s been awesome to see theses, manuscripts, tweets, and blogs acknowledge these programs for advancing student’s professional development.

Before that, I got a B.S. in Biochemistry, taught undergraduate Organic Chemistry labs, and scuba dove for INBio in Costa Rica.

##Software Carpentry Involvement

I was first exposed to Software Carpentry methods during an Intro to Python Course via April Wright’s use of pink and green stickes. I thought this was fantastic!

April suggested that I attend the Instructor Training Workshop that that Greg Wilson and Titus Brown spearheaded January 2015. My PI enthusiastically supported this, and I secured BEACON travel funding. The workshop was so inspiring and informative, so I wrote a blog entitled Effective Teaching Tips from a Train-the-Trainers Workshop.

I have co-taught workshops at UT Arlington and New Mexico State University. I co-organized the Austin-based Instructor/Helper Retreat with Nichole Bennett to strengthen the teaching community in Austin.

I am on the Mentoring Subcommittee and Assessment Subcommittee. I’ve co-hosted debriefing sessions with Sheldon McKay, Kate Hertweck, Raniere Silva, and Christina Koch. I worked with Jason Williams to improve the utility of the new post-workshop assessment.

##Vision for Steering Committee Participation

The phrase “integration across levels” is the most used phrase among my colleagues from then Hofmann Lab and NS&B. This refers to examining the evolutionary, physiological, genomic, genetic, neural, and environmental mechanisms that contribute to variation in animal behavior.

As a member of the steering committee, my vision would be to promote integration across organization levels. Our community is growing rapidly, so my overarching goal is to ensure that each level or organization is aware of and acting on the progress of the others.

Specifically, in 2016 I would focus on:

  1. integrating data from the mentoring and debriefing sessions with the assessment surveys to understand the degree of workshop effectiveness 

  2. discussing the above information with lesson maintainers, who can decide if lessons need revision or not

  3. integrating the above with instructor-trainers and instructor-mentors to improve lesson delivery and ultimately student success

  4. streamlining the above processes so that new trainees can easily be incorporated into these leadership roles

Thank you for considering me for the Steering Committee. Software Carpentry has contributed vastly to my growth as an educator and scientist, and I look forward to contributing back to this excellent community in 2016 and beyond!

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