Remembering a Learning Assistant Experience – Ben Looker

Having now graduated and entered the work force, I am extremely grateful for the experience that the STEM Accelerator learning assistant program afforded me. Prior to becoming an LA, I had minimal contact with my professors. I made sure to ask all questions during the lecture, and did not find any reason to bother the professor during office hours. For someone interested in reaping the largest benefits from their school and degree, this turns out to be a detrimental policy. A good rapport with professors is the golden key to research opportunities, unexpected interests in sub-disciplines, opportunities for community participation and a deepened understanding of the field itself. Simply by stepping foot into a position that put me in communication with the department, I started to see this difference. I interfaced with professors more, my misconceptions about chemistry were unveiled during review sessions and while writing home-made quizzes. The experience fine tuned my basic chemical knowledge and required me to produce weekly problem sets from scratch, to understand how to explain single concepts in a myriad of ways to different students, and to stand up in front of a full room and speak authoritatively and correctly.

The experience greatly increased my confidence in my chemistry comprehension, and furthermore, contributed to my desire to continue learning, to take graduate courses while in school, and to pursue graduate education post bachelors. It reminded me that I love to talk about chemistry, and that I want to keep doing so.


Ben Looker was a Learning Assistant for Fall 2015 and Spring 2016 for Dr. Greg Foster’s sections of Chem 211 and 212. He graduated in Spring 2016 and is now working as a Quality Control chemist in Richmond, VA while applying for graduate programs.