Madhvi Venkatesh is an educator and researcher interested in enhancing skills training and wellness for science students, particularly at the graduate level. She received her B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of California, Berkeley while developing methods for engineering bacterial cells to perform in vitrotransfers of genetic sequences under the mentorship of J. Christopher Anderson. She then went on to receive her doctorate in Biochemistry from the University of Oxford as an NIH-Oxford Scholar co-supervised by Sriram Subramaniam (NIH) and Judith Armitage (Oxford). Her dissertation work utilized cryo-electron microscopy and tomography to study the protein structure and localization of human pyruvate kinase isoforms and bacterial chemosensory proteins.
After completing her doctoral degree, Madhvi pursued her interests in science education as a Curriculum Fellow in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School. She has since been appointed a Lecturer in the department and now serves as the Associate Director of Graduate Education for BCMP. In her role, she works closely with faculty in creating, implementing, and assessing initiatives to enhance the training of graduate students in coursework and paracurricular programs within the BCMP Department. She also conducts research on student outcomes that result from educational innovations designed to promote graduate student skills training and wellness.
Madhvi is interested in advancing holistic science education that promotes the development of transferable skills and student wellness. An overemphasis on content and facts in traditional curricula has historically compromised these goals. Through a combination of implementing innovative pedagogy and researching student outcomes, Madhvi hopes to improve graduate and undergraduate science education. Her current work focuses on three areas:
Graduate student skills development
As doctoral degree holders pursue a wide range of career options, graduate education must ensure that it equips students with the transferable skills required to thrive in these careers. The limitations of time and resources in graduate education pose challenges to creating stand-alone offerings for skills training. Therefore, we have worked to integrate skills training into existing core content courses to teach and enhance skills in experimental design, problem solving, communication, and collaboration. In addition, we continue to assess student skill development in areas of experimental design and scientific communication in order to identify skill gaps and measure changes related to targeted skills training.
Arts and humanities programming for promoting graduate student wellness
Concerns about the wellness and mental health of graduate students have been widely documented, but there are currently few established practices that directly address the issue. This emerging effort adapts well-established practices in medical education to use arts and humanities-based training to prevent burnout and improve communication, emotional awareness, and self-compassion. Graduate student wellness is a complex and multifaceted issue that will undoubtedly require several interventions to address, but this effort seeks to establish and validate one innovative approach to promote student wellness.
Integrating contemplation and embodiment in undergraduate science science instruction (in collaboration with Olin College of Engineering)
Evidence shows that using active learning strategies in instruction improves student engagement and learning outcomes. We seek to expand on this by using contemplative practices and embodiment to help undergraduate students learn science by using their bodies to sense and model physical, chemical, and biological phenomena. We are currently assessing student development to see whether the process promotes diverse ways of knowing and communicating, experiential and collaborative learning, and increased self-awareness.
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