Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching
Ph.D. Candidate in Biomedical Engineering
Lauren Heckelman is a Ph.D. candidate who defended her dissertation in biomedical engineering in December 2021. She also earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering from Duke. She currently works in Lou DeFrate’s Musculoskeletal Bioengineering Laboratory, where her research involves using magnetic resonance imaging, solid modeling, and image processing techniques to investigate human hip and knee mechanics in vivo.
During her time at Duke, Heckelman has led, instructed, and assisted in seven unique courses (a total of 16 classes) in the Pratt School of Engineering. These courses include general engineering and specialized higher-level biomedical engineering courses. She has also served as an instructor for various engineering programs and initiatives for middle, high school, and collegiate students. She is known for going above and beyond in making sure her students understand the course material. Even as a teaching assistant, she is proactive in seeking frequent and informal feedback from her students. She believes in course flexibility, that students should always be able to offer feedback on their courses, and that student concerns should be taken seriously.
Lauren will be joining the faculty at Columbia University in July 2022 as a Lecturer in the Discipline of Biomedical Engineering, where she will continue to teach and mentor students as they embark on their educational journey.
What do you enjoy about teaching?
I love having the opportunity to shape the next generation of scientists and engineers in the classroom. I get daily reminders that what I’m doing matters as I watch my students’ eyes shine when they finally master something they were previously struggling with.
What is something you have done as a teacher that you are really proud of?
I’m extremely proud of the things my students accomplish both during and after I work with them. I have former students in medical school, graduate school, industry, and even a few in the NBA and NFL. It brings me so much joy to see my former students succeed, as I know they have put in the work required to achieve their goals. I am honored to have had even a small role in their journey toward success.
What resources or strategies have you found to be helpful in your development as a teacher?
I’ve specifically had the honor of learning from Dr. Elizabeth (Libby) Bucholz in 10 classes (three as a student, one as a grader, and six as a TA). Over the years, I’ve dissected all the things that make her classes so incredible, and I’ve strived to emulate these characteristics in my own classes. Libby is truly one of the absolute best educators at Duke, and it’s been a privilege to be able to model my teaching by her example.
IN THEIR WORDS
Excerpts from Heckleman’s nomination
“I cannot imagine any graduate student has done more than Lauren has as a TA nor has invested as much time as she has to hone, practice, and develop her teaching skills, particularly in engineering, where teaching is not often a common pursuit.”
“In particular, she has a special talent for clearly explaining difficult concepts in a context that is easy to understand.”
“Lauren went above and beyond for the class, whether it was lecture notes, her review sessions, extra material to help us study, or office hours. She knew front-to-back what she was talking about and was always eager and energetic and put in all her effort.”