“Rewarding,” is how David Wych describes his experience as a teaching assistant for undergraduate courses at the UCI School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, an accomplishment he considers a career highlight.
During his time as a graduate student researcher in the Mobley Lab, Wych’s day-to-day required him to be heads down on the hunt for new discoveries, building tools to capture dynamic information from macromolecular X-ray crystallography and crystallographic diffraction images. Far removed from the bustle and activity of campus life, Wych found he longed for interactions that would allow him to share the knowledge he acquired from his studies inside the laboratory with students outside, at the lecture halls.
Luckily for Wych, he found an advocate in his mentor, David L. Mobley, Ph.D.
“I could not be happier under Dr. Mobley’s guidance,” Wych said. “Graduate students often find that they have to follow the style of their advisors and mold into their ways. With Dr. Mobley, it was the other way around. He was committed to supporting each student with the unique tools they needed to grow.”
Professor Mobley’s interest led to his support of Wych’s new role as a teaching assistant for the Physical Biochemistry (PHRMSCI 171) course during the fall 2019 and fall 2020 quarters, helping second and third-year students grasp the fundamentals of biophysical methods used in the pharmaceutical sciences. Although the role started as a teaching assistant, Wych progressed to teaching the lectures and leading the course.
“David was a perfect choice for this role, given his tremendous background in this area, his talent at teaching, and his career goals,” Mobley said. “He’s an outstanding young educator who works hard to make his lessons accessible, understandable, thorough and helpful, so that made him an ideal teaching assistant for this course.”
The work came with its challenges, however, as Wych worked through ways to present the subject matter in an easily digestible format for undergraduate students and help facilitate their understanding of the direct applications of the course material.
“It’s a cliché that you learn more by teaching than by doing, and I truly gained valuable life lessons during my time as an instructor,” Wych said. “I received feedback from students during the first fall quarter that helped me refine the lessons I presented in the next quarter. In the end, I had students telling me that I was the best professor they had at UCI, that I made the course come alive for them. It was incredible to hear.”
Wych emphasized his experience was possible because he was at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
“The school has rotations that are longer than most departments – lasting a full quarter as opposed to a few weeks – which allows you to get a taste for what research is like in the industry and to really figure out what environments are best suitable for you,” Wych pointed out.
He encourages all incoming undergraduate students at the school to utilize those programs and approach their studies with curiosity and purpose, including finding the right advisor for their goals and career aspirations – just like his mentee-mentor relationship with Professor Mobley.
As part of the class of 2021, Wych earned his PhD in Pharmacological Sciences from UCI this month. His next step will be a full-time role with Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, where he has previously served as a summer fellow, student assistant and summer intern.