Vol 9. Issue 12 / April 6, 2009

JUST Fellow Brings Together Research and Teaching

By Mika Ono

When some faculty members hit upon the idea of the Joint University of San Diego-Scripps Training Program (JUST) program a few years ago, they had someone just like Kris Koudelka in mind.

Koudelka, a recent graduate of the Scripps Research Institute's Kellogg School of Science and Technology, is passionate about both research and teaching.

"I love research and I love teaching, so I hope to find a faculty position where I can balance the two," Koudelka says. "The JUST program has been a wonderful opportunity for me."

The JUST fellowship, funded by the Fletcher Jones Foundation, provides two years of mentored teaching experience at the University of San Diego (USD) for a Scripps Research alumnus or postdoctoral fellow. Scripps Research has a top-ranked Ph.D. program with about 200 graduate students and no undergraduates, while the USD is primarily an undergraduate institution, with 7,600 students.

The JUST program was the brainchild of USD chemist Debbie Tahmassebi, who spent a sabbatical year at Scripps Research, and Jamie Williamson, dean of the Kellogg School.

"In chemistry and biochemistry, our emphasis is on undergraduate education and we do not offer graduate degrees," said Tahmassebi at the time of the program's launch in 2007.  "We have been looking for creative ways to integrate chemistry and biology postdocs into our program as a means of enhancing our research culture."

Similarly, Williamson was delighted to expand teaching opportunities for Scripps Research graduates and postdocs, and worked to make the program a reality.

Now in the second semester of his JUST fellowship, Koudelka is getting plenty of experience juggling—and integrating—the worlds of research and teaching. A graduate of the Kellogg School, he is now conducting postdoctoral studies in the Scripps Research laboratory of Associate Professor Marianne Manchester—whom he calls "the best boss ever"—learning new techniques for research on viruses.

At USD, Koudelka is finding his stride teaching classes of undergraduates. Last fall, he team-taught a general chemistry course at USD with his mentor there, Professor Jeremy Kua. This semester, Koudelka has progressed to being the instructor of record for a class called "Chemistry 103: DNA Science and Technology."

"The biggest change in my teaching has been my confidence level," says Koudelka, a Wisconsin native. "I'm getting used to responding to questions on the spot. Sometimes the students ask really good questions!"

Koudelka will bring several USD students to work with him in the lab at Scripps Research this summer, when they can get an idea of what goes into conducting research on a day-to-day basis. Koudelka has also had the opportunity to sit in on the faculty hiring committee at USD, which has given him insights into how best to conduct his own search for a faculty position when it starts in earnest this fall.

"This whole experience has been invaluable," says Koudelka. "All my mentors have been focused on preparing me for a faculty position and helping me as much as possible. I am really grateful to Scripps Research, USD, and the Fletcher Jones Foundation for making the JUST program possible."

In addition to funding the JUST program, the Fletcher Jones Foundation has provided separate support to both Scripps Research and USD, including for two endowed fellowships at the Kellogg School and one endowed professorship at USD. For more information on the foundation, see http://www.fletcherjonesfdn.org/.


Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu



"The JUST program has been a wonderful opportunity for me," says Kris Koudelka, shown here in the lab at Scripps Research and in the classroom at the University of San Diego.