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Gregory Carter honored with the 2017 Paul M. Althouse Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

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Gregory Carter Honored Paul M. Althouse Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award

June 6, 2017 – Gregory Carter, a student in the Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Molecular Biology (BMMB) Graduate Program at Penn State, has been honored with the 2017 Paul M. Althouse Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award.

The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department presents the award each year to a graduate student for their outstanding teaching abilities in an undergraduate laboratory course. Recipients are selected by the Graduate Affairs Committee based on student evaluations and the evaluation of the teaching assistant’s supervising course instructor.

Carter has always enjoyed the puzzle solving aspect of science and coupled with his desire to help others the decision to pursue microbiology seemed an obvious choice.  He credits his high school AP Biology teacher, Mr. Hodos, as inspiration to make his choice.  Carter went on to obtain his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) and then transitioned to Penn State to pursue his graduate studies.  Along with his role as a teaching assistant, Carter also conducts research in the laboratory of Xin Zhang, Assistant Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Penn State.

The Zhang laboratory studies the cellular response to protein-folding stress. Carter works with one protein in particular, a molecular chaperone known as Hsp90. This protein is important for day-to-day functions in human cells, but over the past few decades, researchers have discovered that Hsp90 can also be taken over by cancerous cells, allowing them to stay alive. The Zhang Laboratory seeks to understand the mechanism by which healthy cells control this protein, allowing researchers to understand how cancer cells control it as well. Carter hopes that with the continued collection of data and the publishing of future research papers that the research will one day be used by those who perform clinical trials or develop pharmaceuticals to influence the lives of patients in need.

With the conclusion of the Spring 2017 semester, Carter finished his second semester as teaching assistant for BMB 442: Nucleic Acid and Protein Purification.  When asked about the moments in the classroom that bring him the biggest smile he stated “I love when students get something that they previously struggled with”.  Carter said that some students even get exaggerated looks on their faces when that breakthrough occurs.  He went on to say that it was these moments that he characterizes as “fantastic”, and that really give him a sense of accomplishment and make him feel as though he has made a difference in a student’s life.  Carter’s goal is to have the students feel better off after the class has ended then they did at the start.

Carter went on to say that the overall success of the course was made possible by excellent instruction on the part of its two faculty, Dr. Padala and Dr. Giebink.  “They were both absolutely fantastic and they really helped the course make a lot of sense to the students” said Carter.  Giebink also taught the course that instructs graduate students, such as Carter, to be effective and informative teaching assistants.  Carter said of Giebink, “She did an absolutely excellent job and she really cares about having graduate students that are good teaching assistants”.

Currently Carter is entering his third year of the BMMB Graduate Program and plans to continue gaining experience and sharing his knowledge with students as a teaching assistant.