UAB professor honored by the National Association of Biology Teachers for innovation in classroom curriculum and strategy

Recognized for her innovation in the classroom, Samiksha Raut, Ph.D., was awarded the 2023 Four-Year College and University Section Biology Teaching Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers.

Stream S RautRecognized for her innovation in the classroom, Samiksha Raut, Ph.D., was awarded the 2023 Four-Year College and University Section Biology Teaching Award from the National Association of Biology Teachers.Samiksha Raut, Ph.D., associate professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Biology, has been awarded the 2023 Four-Year College and University Section Biology Teaching Award under the National Association of Biology Teachers.

Sponsored by NABT’s Four-Year College and University Section, this national honor recognizes biology teachers who demonstrate innovation and creativity in undergraduate biology teaching.

Nominated anonymously, Raut was selected for this award due to her commitment to elevating the education and learning environment of her courses at UAB.

On Saturday, November 4, Raut attended the special session convention in Baltimore, Maryland where she presented an award talk entitled “Reimagining scientific literacy for community engagement”.

“In the past, I have had multiple students to attend this conference and I have been a member of NABT since quite a while, but this was my first time attending this conference, and it’s almost like a full circle moment.”

Raut acknowledged how UAB helped position her approach to teaching and ultimately this award.

“The College is very proud of Dr. Raut’s recent award. This award is representative of the Department of Biology’s strong commitment to the instruction and mentoring of undergraduate students while also being a very active research community. We are fortunate to have Dr. Raut on our faculty.” – College of Arts and Sciences Dean Kecia Thomas, Ph.D.

“Working with the Center for Teaching and Learning has helped enhance my knowledge in teaching,” Raut said. “I have also been able to complete numerous in-house fellowships and have participated in numerous undergraduate education committees, which has helped me think about the challenges faced by our undergraduate students. This has ultimately equipped me to cultivate a more conducive learning environment.”

Further, Raut says intensive training in inclusive teaching practices has also made her attuned to the barriers faced by minority students, first generation students, low socioeconomic classes and LGBTQ students.

Raut started the very first peer learning assistant course, which allowed her to bring back successful students from previous courses to serve as peer leaders to the current roster of students enrolled in that course. Raut instructs the students in teaching methods, as she trains them in the context of cultural competency.

“This training has been made possible because of the multicultural grants introduced by Dean Thomas,” Raut said. “The introduction of this course 6 years ago has yielded a notable decrease in failure rates and ultimately has reduced achievement gaps.”

“Dr. Raut’s commitment to excellence in education has been evident to us all, and her passion for nurturing the intellectual growth of our students is truly commendable. This award recognizes not only her exceptional teaching skills but also the positive impact she continues to have on our students’ lives. Dr. Raut’s accomplishments bring honor to our department and UAB, and I look forward to witnessing her continued success as an educator in the Department of Biology.” – Biology Department Chair Karolina Mukhtar, Ph.D.

Raut also notes the effects of active learning as opposed to heavy book-based course materials as the backbone of her teaching style. She has taken a very intentional step to involve her students with community engagement opportunities, particularly with non-major students, which serves as a testament to her commitment to innovation. She has worked closely with Amy Chatham, Ph.D., and Gareth Jones on many of her community projects.

“We have engaged many of our non-major students with opportunities to gain an experience working with various community partners from our Birmingham area,” Raut said. “We have completed projects related to climate change and sustainability, vaccine hesitancy in the South, COVID-19 safety measures and even partnered with the Jefferson Country Department of Health for opioid addiction awareness with Dr. Mark Wilson and Robert Sorge, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Psychology.”

Raut recently published a novel article on the opioid awareness module related to non-STEM majors education titled, Championing awareness of the opioid epidemic through a service-learning module for non-STEM biology majors.

Established in 1938, the National Association of Biology Teachers focuses on the empowerment of academic educators through professional development and collaboration with fellow educators of diverse experiences and backgrounds.

“I feel extremely grateful, humbled and honored because this is a national level award and honestly, I wasn't expecting to win because it's fiercely competitive,” Raut said. “I was surprised, but I am grateful to NABT for recognizing my innovation and to UAB for providing me with the environment that enabled me to explore creative solutions towards elevating traditional undergraduate curriculum.”