The most eloquent compliment Megan Lamkin’s students pay to her teaching is understood without them saying a word. On this chilly Tuesday morning late in the fall semester, many undergrads would rather be sleeping in or procrastinating under their blankets with Netflix. But the Excellence in Teaching Award winner’s review session for her microbiology class, although both early and optional, is comfortably crowded. Eager science majors gather with their laptops and notebooks around the high, black-topped tables of the laboratory in Rieveschl Hall.
She doesn’t let the students stay quiet for long. As Lamkin goes through the scores of images her class will need to identify for their lab practical exam, she’s constantly questioning, gauging the knowledge of the room and having students fill in key points about what she calls “the story of what’s happening.” On one slide, a series of test tubes with differently colored media becomes a way to tell what nutrients a species of bacteria needs to survive. On another, she gestures to the red color of stained bacterial rods as the critical element in diagnosing a patient
Although her class starts out nervous about the volume of information they need to master, Lamkin’s hard-driving confidence is contagious. “You’ve done it so many times before,” she tells her students in reference to Gram staining, a lab technique they’ll need to repeat on the exam, and the group nods in agreement. By the end of the session, the class is laughing at an image of a giant plush microbe while correctly identifying the flagella it uses for mobility. Lamkin even shuffles in front of the whiteboard to drive home the point, her hands gliding outward in a semblance of bacterial motion.