June 12, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 18

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    2003 Faculty Awards for Excellence in Graduate Teaching: Benjamin Glick, Associate Professor in Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology

    By Catherine Gianaro
    Medical Center Public Affairs

    Benjamin Glick
    Benjamin Glick appreciates the benefits of teaching every fall when both his undergraduate and graduate cell biology classes are offered.

    "It keeps me on my toes," Glick said. "Teaching forces you to think things through and to organize your thoughts--mostly with the graduate course because it has to be updated and reorganized constantly. Every year we sift through research papers to find current, solid material that warrants critical analysis."

    To Glick, Associate Professor in Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology, the biggest difference between teaching the two courses is actually a "philosophical" one.

    "In the undergraduate course, you're mostly just bringing students up to speed on the fundamental concepts of the science," he said. "When you teach at the graduate level, you're introducing students to a field that's always in flux. There's an ongoing debate about the research and all that's new to the field."

    Although Glick enjoys teaching both classes, he admits the graduate course is more challenging. "You need to put the science into context and you also need to present the controversy that surrounds it."

    Glick is not only teaching his students the current thinking of cell biology, but also is teaching them how to become critical scientists.

    "You have to become really critical. You have to evaluate the science, comb through the research and analyze it piece by piece."

    To do this, Glick and his co-instructor Aaron Turkewitz, Associate Professor in Molecular Genetics & Cell Biology, rely on primary sources, namely research papers. With two lectures and one discussion class each week, the students cover a staggering amount of information.

    "We used to teach in Winter Quarter, and the students were already acclimated to graduate school," Glick said. "But now we teach in the fall, and the students are shocked.

    "It's a traumatic experience going from the undergraduate level to the graduate. They're not quite prepared for the amount of information and level of critical analysis. It usually takes a few weeks, but they do get much better.

    "In the end," he added, "I think most students appreciate the course."

    For the seven years Glick and Turkewitz have been teaching the graduate course, they have set aside 10 minutes from each lecture for an experimental technique "infomercial."

    "There are so many different experimental techniques that are used, you need to know precisely how they work, as well as their limitations," Glick said. "The students really respond to [the infomercials] because the more research papers we analyze, the more techniques are introduced, so they have a better grasp of what and why the research is being done that way."

    When Glick is not in the classroom, he is focused on his research, specifically, one organelle––the Golgi apparatus, which delivers other cell components to their destinations. With the help of six graduate students, Glick studies the function and mechanism of this multilayered, sac-like structure found in most cells.

    Glick earned his undergraduate degree in neuroscience and mathematics from Amherst College and a doctorate in 1988 from Stanford University. He worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the Biozentrum at the University of Basel, Switzerland, before joining the Chicago faculty in 1995.