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Rachel Fink

Professor of Biological Sciences


From the Princeton Review:

“From my mother I learned that a good teacher cares passionately about her students,” says Rachel Fink, a professor in the biological sciences at Mount Holyoke College.


She treasures the time she spends with her students—“they teach me about the world, what it is like to be young, they ask questions that can take a conversation from public policy to the behavior of molecules”—and finds that “being a teacher is NEVER dull.” Students know that she cares about their lives, and that she sees the act of teaching as a tool unto itself: “To this day I try to get my shyest students to agree to teach something.”


Her courses include The Cellular and Molecular Basis of Development and How Organisms Develop; what is most splendid about the latter course is the way the laboratory experiences are tied to the lecture material. “Since our lab schedule is based on the spawning season of the Pacific purple sea urchin, I always begin the course with a study of fertilization. FedEx delivers the ripe urchins the Tuesday of the second week of the semester, and that afternoon dozens of first-year students add drops of sperm to small beakers of eggs. As one cell cleaves to two, then four, students see that, amazingly, a context for learning mitosis is born.” “She always made an effort to visualize processes that were difficult to visualize and explain things in different ways to make sure that we got it,” says a student.


In Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine: Past, Present and Future, which focuses on the science and bioethics of current topics in developmental biology, students take on the persona of a figure in the national/international debate about a topic such as embryonic stem cells, and then play that person in a debate presented to her large intro class. This is one of her favorite ways to get students teaching each other, and show that science is a very human endeavor. In all of her courses one goal is to have students see how ALIVE cells are, and how magnificent are the processes of development. “If even a few undergraduates tingle when thinking of the cells wandering, dividing, and rearranging within their own bodies, I have indeed done my job well.”

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Taken on April 4, 2012