UCLA Collegium of University Teaching Fellow

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Caitlyn Fick

Chemistry graduate student Caitlyn Fick (Srivastava group) has been chosen by the UCLA Collegium of University Teaching Fellows (CUTF) program to teach a lower-division seminar titled, “PFAS, pesticides, and plastics: how revolutionary chemistry has changed our past and future”.

Fick’s course, which she will teach either during the Winter or Spring Quarters of Academic Year 2023-24, is expected to be of interest to undergraduate students studying chemistry for its real-world applications, and for those interested in the ethical and moral implications of scientific advancements.

The CUTF provides a one-time only opportunity for UCLA’s very best graduate students to be the instructor on record to present innovative seminars in their fields of specialization. Seminars offered through the Collegium in this way offer a limited number of UCLA’s undergraduate students the unique opportunity to engage in highly interactive and rigorous seminars led by young scholars who are deeply immersed in personal research in that field of inquiry.

A third-year chemistry graduate student, Fick’s interest in teaching and education began during her undergraduate studies at Scripps College where she proposed and executed a senior thesis investigating how activities outside of the classroom, such as office hours and problem-solving sessions, could lead to greater retention and student success in general chemistry classrooms.

Fick’s undergraduate teaching and education research inspired her to continue implementing inclusive practices in classrooms at UCLA. In the classes she teaches Fick makes a point to introduce her students to a different STEM scientist from an underrepresented group each week in order to demonstrate the importance of diversity in the sciences.

Because chemistry can be a challenging subject for many of our undergraduate students, Fick focuses on creating a supportive classroom environment and providing clear directions for students. As part of this supportive environment, she tries to connect with her students beyond their interests in the sciences to make them feel welcome in the classroom. This passion for teaching has made Fick a frequently-requested teaching assistant (TA) in the department’s undergraduate labs and her success is evident in her high student evaluations, including many comments that she is the best TA that the students have ever had.

Before joining the UCLA Chemistry & Biochemistry graduate program in 2020, Fick received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Scripps College where she was a student researcher in Professor Aaron Leconte’s group. At Scripps, her research focused on the creation and screening of mutant luciferase enzymes for improved bioluminescent imaging, which can potentially be used in bio-tagging procedures. Fick received a Master of Science degree in chemistry from UCLA in 2022.

Fick currently works in Professor Samanvaya Srivastava’s lab in the Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Department of the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science doing polymer synthesis, specifically comb polymers. Her work is interdisciplinary and seeks to address common issues in human health, disease, and eventual diagnosis and treatment.

Fick is very active in outreach to diverse communities and recently received the department’s inaugural Sammy T. Mensah Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Award. She serves as an Internal Coordinator for the UCLA Organization for Cultural Diversity in Science and President of the UCLA Graduate Society of Women Engineers. Fick was recently selected as a BioPACIFIC MIP fellow for the 2023-2024 program.

Penny Jennings, UCLA Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, penny@chem.ucla.edu.