Biochemistry professor Rachael Baker has a PhD in biochemistry and biophysics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She recently won an award from an international research group for innovative research on rare diseases.
And who is Professor Baker curious about? You.
When you peek in her classroom and lab, you’ll discover a student-centered approach. She is an expert in biochemistry—and she’s going to sit beside you, guiding you to become the kind of thinker and researcher the world needs.
Professor Baker answered some questions for us about this approach and how it will empower you to make positive change.
How would you describe teaching at Calvin?
I like that my classes are small enough that I can get to know students individually. Teaching is not about the expert at the front of the room imparting information to eager students. Teaching is enabling students to think critically—helping students dismantle their own misconceptions and build new, complex networks of ideas. I love working alongside each student to equip students to explore how to think like a chemist and biochemist.
How would you describe the classroom interaction between faculty and students in chemistry?
As a student in chemistry at Calvin, professors will know you by name. Our classes are small, which means we can engage with students on an individual basis. We value critical thinking, so we focus on making sure students understand how to think about chemistry. Students don’t just learn the content we teach in class—they learn how to learn new content and think about new ideas they will encounter once they leave Calvin.
What do you enjoy about working with Calvin students on research projects?
Students bring so much energy to the lab. Every time a student joins my research program, I get a little more excited about my research project. I love watching students be challenged by new experiences and gain confidence when mastering new skills. I love getting to work alongside students—I get to know them, to help them develop new skills, and to explore with them how science will fit into their lives and careers in the future.
What makes Calvin graduates different?
What sets a Calvin graduate apart is not the number of science courses they have taken, the type of research they have done, or their GPA. They stand out, because they know how to think critically. They stand out, because they have the skills to tackle new and challenging problems. And they stand out, because they engage their work authentically and wholeheartedly.
This does not come from taking the most classes in the sciences or working in the best funded labs in the country. This comes from working one-on-one with mentors who know and care for students. Our mentors take the time to challenge students to learn new things and develop essential skills. That's the Calvin difference.