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KCC Faculty on Teaching

KCC Faculty on Teaching

Sarwar Jahangir

How did you get into teaching?
I was born in Bangladesh and grew up in a family with teaching as a tradition. (My father was a teacher, two uncles were teachers, my grandfather was a teacher, and so on.) I used to watch my father and mother reciting novels and poems to each other, teaching their contents to each other. Whenever I learned something new as a young student, I would immediately plan in my mind how I would explain it to others. In seventh grade, I set up a classroom in my home to teach younger children how to read and write. As an undergraduate, I used to teach my fellow classmates after class. I was appointed as a biology teaching fellow after completing my graduate degree at Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU). While I was an M.Sc. student at Cochin University in India, I would love to teach a class when a teacher was absent. I have taught at the University of Alberta, Canada, several CUNY campuses, Stockton University, NJ, and Wabash College, IN. I love teaching as a profession.

What career did you imagine for yourself when you were in college?
When I entered BAU as an undergraduate, I thought I would do research to improve the spawning of Indian major carps for aquaculture. As I was ranking first in every year in undergraduate, my friends used to whisper in my ear that the University would take me as a teacher. I came to feel teaching would be an opportunity to be creative, learn and decipher knowledge to the younger generations.

What do you love about teaching?
Teaching gives one an unlimited scope for self-education and this might help me reach “panditya”, which means scholarship. In addition to coming to the classroom well prepared for a topic, I try to get my students to consider how education and knowledge have contributed to human life, society and overcoming hurdles. I also attempt to learn about my students as people, and remain humble and helpful to them: I want them to know that I am concerned about all of them. During the learning process, I encourage their inquisitiveness by gradually adding new information to what they already know. I want to inspire them to continue to explore the vast unlimited unknowns we’ve yet to discover. 

What’s your favorite teaching experience?
I feel very rewarded when I hear of students who are succeeding in the field of biotechnology. One of our former students is now working in an international biotechnology company in New Jersey as a managing director, advising customers that include Moderna and Pfizer. Several others are now employed at biotechnology-pharmaceutical firms, and are pursuing advanced degrees in the field of biotechnology, including Ph.D.’s. In the classroom, my most favorite experience is when a student presents an idea I never thought of, participates and asks to expand the idea further.

In what ways do you bring your professional experience into the classroom?
When I joined KCC, I was excited to learn that they were interested in starting a biotechnology program. I immediately started helping to structure the program using my knowledge of the industry. We reached out to related institutions and businesses in and around NYC, NJ, PA and CT and have established relationships with Pfizer, Johnson and Johnson, Merk, GenScript, Drexel University, and others, to help benefit our students. We received strong support from around the campus and from many city and state agencies, as well as professional organizations. We also created a student chapter of The International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE), which opened a world of opportunities for our students. Students were able build their professional network, meet industry leaders, and take part in ISPE Student Poster Competitions, sometimes winning awards.

 I enjoy sharing my professional experience by mentoring our students. Together we have worked on such research projects as spawning American eel and COVID-19 vaccine production, for which we applied for two grants. I have also taken part, as a co-PI and director, in several large size National Science Foundation grants for KCC.

What advice do you have for current students?
Learning is never a waste. We all depend on each other for knowledge. We are all excellent because we came here to learn – and we are all successful in our own way. There are a lot of essential things left to learn. Keep learning!