As a firm believer in the transformative power of Science and education, I'm dismayed by the abysmal levels of scientific literacy both in my native Brazil as well as in my current base in the United States. But I also consider myself lucky to be in a position where, by teaching at the secondary level, I'm able to make a small contribution to change that situation. At LSU, I have been a teaching assistant for freshmen Introductory Biology labs and for a Genetics reading session. I find teaching an extremely refreshing break from the long and often frustrating timelines of research. The grading load can be burdensome and I still sometimes get the jitters before standing up in front of a class, but when I realize that I helped even a single student out of sixty each semester discover a previously dormant enthusiasm for Science and biology, it is all worth it.
It is even more rewarding when I'm able to recruit one of those students to assist me in my research. At LSU, I have enlisted almost ten undergraduate students to assist with data generation for my research on the macroevolution of bird color. I train them on the use of research specimens and on reflectance spectrophotometry, indoctrinate them on the importance of collections-based research and try my best to present a friendly, relaxed and welcoming face for science. I have found that these students are almost invariably receptive, cheerful and hard-working. A couple of the most enthusiastic went on to develop semi-independent research projects of their own. Tyler Howard worked on characterizing the perplexing plumage color variation observed in the Bright-rumped Atilla, culminating with him presenting his results as first author of a poster at the 2018 American Ornithological Society meeting in Arizona; and Brandi Sun wrote and presented an outstanding Honors Thesis on patterns of sexual dichromatism across different body patches in antbirds (Thamnophilidae). Tyler is now a medical student at LSU Shreveport and Brandi is a medical student at LSU New Orleans.
I have never received formal training in mentoring, but I definitely plan to do that as soon as I have the chance!
Photos: Top: Me and Tyler Howard in front of his poster at the AOS meeting in Arizona in 2018. Middle: Brandi Sun presenting her amazing honors thesis. Bottom: the tireless Ryan Klutts measuring an Amazonian Umbrellabird specimen. Ryan has worked with me on-and-off since 2015 and is one of the most hardworking and enthusiastic persons I know. He's graduating from LSU with a major in Conservation Biology in Fall 2019.