Science Teaching Experience Program for Upcoming PhDs

The Science Teaching Experience Program for Upcoming PhDs (STEP-UP) is a two-quarter program for UW graduate students that provides training and teaching experience in higher education using student-centered multi-disciplinary practices in pedagogies. Our trainees work efficiently within their ongoing research programs to learn, develop, and practice evidenced-based and compassionate teaching skills for use in a wide range of careers. If you are (or plan to be) a graduate student at UW and want to maximize your teaching skills, then please read on or watch our short introduction video here.

How does STEP-UP work?

  • Autumn Quarter: Trainees complete a 2-credit course (MCB 508 Teaching College Science/BIOL 508 Developing Evidence-Based Instructional Materials and Teaching Strategies) in which they form teams of three to develop their own course materials. They also work with an experienced teacher-educator to learn teaching strategies and practice teaching skills.
  • Winter or Spring Quarter: Each team delivers a 10-week, special topics seminar course in Biology in either winter or spring quarter. A mentor observes class meetings, and after class meets with the postdocs to discuss the strengths of their teaching and to brainstorm on strategies to addressing areas that need improvement. The classes meet once a week for one hour and fifty minutes. Trainees enroll in 2 credits of MCB/BIOL 509 Teaching Practicum during their teaching quarter.

Upon completing STEP-UP, trainees will be equipped for additional teaching opportunities and have a number of tangible items that can be demonstrated to future employers; in addition to teaching experience, these include syllabi, collegial reviews of teaching, student evaluations, and course materials that can be used in teaching demonstrations.

We are pleased to be able to offer STEP-UP as a tuition-free program.

Each trainee will need: 

  • The agreement of their primary research PI and an understanding that some of their time will be spent developing teaching skills.
  • To have completed their general exam and/or are in the final year-or-two of their graduate program.

The courses that have been taught by STEP-UP trainees include:

  • Life Cycle of a Neuron: Neurodevelopment, Neural Function in mature circuit, and Neuronal Disfunction at the end of life
  • Competition and Evolution: Pleiotropy and Within-Genome Competition
  • Risk Factors: Environmental chemistry and autoimmunity
  • Animal Behavior Lab
  • Brains: Civilization and Research
  • Coding for Geoscience
  • When Cellular Systems Break: Signaling, Migration and Division
  • Current Research Methods: CRISPR, proteomics, and Next-gen Sequencing
  • Understanding the Opioid Epidemic
  • Evolution Across Time: Cancer evolution, evolution of mutation rate, and deep-time evolution
  • How neurons work and how they fail
  • Molecular Mechanisms of Life and Death
  • Current Research in Neurodegeneration
  • Cancer Metabolism: Metabolic Pathways and Tumor Growth
  • Deep molecular biology: Translation, RNA, and Electrophysiology
  • How science impacts society: Communicating science across disciplines
  • Introduction to Statistics and Quantitative Analysis

STEP-UP is supported by UW School of Medicine and the UW College of Arts and Sciences. The program began with support from the National Science Foundation through the Innovations in Graduate Education program (1855841).

How do I apply?

Applications are now CLOSED.  Please check back next spring for the 2025-2026 academic year cohort.

Please direct questions to Dr. Becca Price, the Executive Director of STEP.