Spotlight featuring Professors Kirsten Turlo and Diana Rigueur

Professor Kirsten Turlo

Meet Professors Kirsten Turlo and Diana Rigueur, creators of Biomedical Research Minor 1A: Science in Your Time! Now in its second year, Biomedical Research Minor 1A: Science in Your Time fulfills a Life Science GE (lecture) and a Diversity Requirement. The course can also be used to fulfill a requirement for the Global Health minor. Students completing the course will have a better idea as to where bias occurs in academia and medicine from training through faculty appointments, funding, and publications. Professors Turlo and Rigueur’s course helps inform students so when the students listen to their colleagues discussing topics of race and racism, they can speak from a position of knowledge. They can listen with empathy and have the information to connect on many levels around concerns of diversity in STEM. They will be able to think critically about the sources they read and to find primary sources behind laymen materials on science. Students will have practiced investigating bias that comes from authors and speakers and how to navigate those bias to get to the data and interpret it for themselves. Ultimately, Professors Turlo and Rigueur hope students completing the course will be more prepared to engage in scientific discourse and on racial disparities in STEM.

Professor Diana Rigueur

Bio Med Research 1A: Science in Your Time is also unique because Professors Turlo and Rigueur cover racial disparities in faculty and medicine. Professor Turlo shares, “Rather than focusing on a lack of representation in research studies or health disparities, we are looking at the people doing the science.  We talk about the training process and biases that affect diversity.  Then we delve into the latest science.  Currently content focuses on exon skipping, specifically, a treatment for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. After we understand some of the extensive history of RNA-altering treatments, we discuss the science and data behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.  We review the evidence behind successful treatments of covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) infection as well as the data on ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine and why they are not recommended treatments.”

The reactions from students in the course have also been overwhelmingly positive. Listed below are shared testimonials from three students and the impact this course has made on their development:

  • “The course material was something I felt all people would benefit from learning….”  
  • “The professor is great at explaining complex subjects.  Evaluating data and thinking critically about medical research seemed simple in the class.”  
  • “I am still very fortunate to have been in her class because I think what she is teaching in the class is critical and so valuable to learn and educate others about.”

In the future, Professor Turlo would like to increase course enrollment and flip the course to allow for more in class content discussion. In addition, she’d like to add more writing so the course may qualify for the GE writing requirement. On behalf of the CEILS team, we are excited to see what the future holds and how the course will continue to evolve and impact students’ education and future careers.

Past Spotlights

Dr. Elisheva Gross

Dr. Elisheva Gross, Director and Lecturer of the Applied Developmental Psychology Minor, shares her experience after participating in and assisting with several of our workshops this year:

“The CEILS anti-racism workshops have helped me learn, reflect, and build my own skills to facilitate challenging and vital conversations about bias, equity, and racism with my own students and teaching team. The workshops were an invitation and a toolbox for me to deepen my commitment to anti-racist and inclusive teaching. This fall & winter, I adopted numerous equitable teaching practices I learned from CEILS, including finding new ways to build community equitably during remote instruction; ensuring that BIPOC and women scholars are well-represented in the readings and additional resources I provide students; setting and referring back to collectively defined community agreements; and substantially expanding our focus on the impact of systemic racism on child development, and on what we can do about it—as researchers, educators, and agents of change—especially now.”

Dr. Michelle Rensel

Dr. Rensel, an Assistant Professor from the UCLA Institute of Society and Genetics shares her experience after participating in and assisting with several of our workshops this year: “Participating in the CEILS “Becoming an anti-racist educator” workshop series as a participant and facilitator has given me practical tools to use while I strive to create an anti-racist pedagogy for the classroom.
“I am applying these lessons by creating shared classroom agreements to facilitate critical, productive, and inclusive discussions, diversifying the narratives and scholarship that I ask students to engage with, redesigning my syllabi and assessments to provide more opportunities for success, and taking time to reflect on my own privilege and how it relates to my role as an educator at UCLA.”

Dr. Kirsten Turlo

Dr. Kirsten Turlo, an instructor in the Biomedical Research Minor and an Out of the Box participant, successfully implemented a quick and simple intervention that had a large impact: she asked her students how they were doing. Shortly after, she received the following note from one of her students:

“…I’d just like to express my gratitude for how sensitive and compassionate you have been throughout the quarter with respect to the things we have going on in our lives during this crazy year… your kindness has made a world of difference for me personally, and I know it has for many of my colleagues too. I just wanted to say thank you!”

Although many students don’t take the time to tell their instructors this, this is a great reminder that your compassion makes a difference to them!

Dr. Ana Garcia-Vedrenne and Dr. Robert Wayne


UPLIFT Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr. Ana Garcia-Vedrenne, and EEB Faculty member, Dr. Robert Wayne, recently published an article entitled “Ten strategies for a successful transition to remote learning: Lessons learned with a flipped course.” Please read their article for full context on the tips for transitioning to remote learning.

For a summary of the tips, see below:

Dr. Tracy Johnson

Dr. Tracy Johnson, has recently been named the new Dean of the Division of Life Sciences.  Dean Johnson is an HHMI (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) professor who holds the Keith and Cecilia Terasaki Presidential Endowed Chair in the Life Sciences. Throughout her years as a University of California professor (at UC San Diego 2003 to 2013, and at UCLA since 2013), Dean Johnson has not only participated in ground breaking research, but has also earned multiple honors, awards and grants for her work providing transformative undergraduate learning experiences.

CEILS has been fortunate to collaborate with Dean Johnson in her inaugural initiative as Dean, Out of the Box: Reimagining the Virtual Classroom in Fall 2020. Out of the Box, launched during UCLA’s Fall Teaching Forum, provided resources and time to support faculty in rising to the occasion, to get from “good enough” teaching to deliberate and inclusive teaching tailored to the needs of their students. This led to more than 30 faculty engaging in professional development to improve their Fall 2020 courses. Watch this video of Dean Johnson’s message to faculty about remote teaching.
In her role as the Director of the UCLA-HHMI Pathways to Success program, CEILS partnered with Dean Johnson on a 5-year $1-million grant-funded program dedicated to ensuring that transfer students have equal access to a high quality STEM education and increases their entrée into a range of STEM careers.
We are excited for Dean Johnson’s leadership in creating more equitable classrooms and look forward to continuing our work with her at UCLA!

Dr. Marlius Castillo

Dr. Marlius Castillo, Cram Teacher-Scholar at the UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, has just published an article on student perspectives on remote learning in a large chemistry class. In this video, she discusses her experience teaching Chem 14C during Spring 2020 and how she has developed an engaging learning environment for students, as both professors and students navigate their first remote quarter together. You can read Dr. Castillo’s article here.

This month, we are featuring multiple UCLA faculty and their new publications on inclusive education.

Roshini Ramachandran and Marlius Rodriguez
Drs. Ramachandran and Rodriquez’s study details the efforts taken in remotely teaching a large organic chemistry lecture course at UCLA in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Ramachandran is the Assistant Director of Curricular Initiatives at the UCLA Center for Advancement of Teaching. She also teaches undergraduate chemistry courses. Dr. Rodriquez is the 2019 – 2022 Cram Teacher-Scholar and was teaching Chemistry 14C at the time of publication.
Christopher Schell et. al (including Shane Campbell-Staton)
Dr. Shane Cambell-Staton of UCLA collaborated on a paper published in Nature about promoting Black excellence in higher education. The paper addresses how scholars can employ anti-racist policies and actions in the field of ecology and evolution. Dr. Cambell-Staton is an Assistant Professor at the UCLA Institute for Society & Genetics.
Dr. Jeff Maloy of UCLA was one of many collaborators on this list of how you can create an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals in your class. The recommendations featured in the article are not only comprehensive, but are also a great tool to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community and becoming a better ally. Dr. Maloy is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at UCLA.

Dr. Jenny Casey

Dr. Jennifer Casey, winner of UCLA’s 2019 Distinguished Teaching Award, just received the 2020 Hanson-Dow Award for Excellence in Teaching for her Spring 2020 enhanced general chemistry pilot course (Chem14AE). In this 7-minute video, she describes her approach to a remote version of Chem14AE, how she fostered group work and built engaging and effective community through remote teaching. She talks about the challenges she encountered along with great tips for overcoming these obstacles. This pilot course is supported by a UC Provost Grant, the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, and CEILS.

Watch the interview with Dr. Casey here. 

Here are the resources Dr. Casey discusses in the video:

  • Ideas for Communicating on Zoom: This PDF was shared with Dr. Casey’s students in order to provide them with a variety of ways to use Zoom and other computer programs to communicate with each other and complete group projects.
  • Tips for Maximizing Team Roles: One way Dr. Casey found success in remote teaching is through assigned teams. In these teams, all students are given the opportunity to rotate between team roles, which are described in the PDF.
  • Exploring Electron Domains: This is an example worksheet that showcases how each team works together, as well as how all teams are able to interact in the larger classroom.

Quick Tips from UCLA Faculty

In addition to our monthly video series, we also feature faculty achievements in blog posts, articles, and other resources.