Are you a PhD student who is interested in gaining teaching experience? The Brilliant Club recently caught up with one of their Scholars Programme tutors, Mihai Pruna, to find out more about his experience as a tutor and his role in contributing towards fair access.
What is your PhD thesis topic?
My PhD is on changes in structure and signalling at the intercalated disc, after adrenergic signalling.
When did you apply to be Scholars Programme tutor?
I applied to be a tutor in January 2020.
How many placements have you done? Which schools have you taught at?
I have taught at two schools, The Compton School and Friern Barnet School, both in North London.
What courses have you taught? Have you designed your own course based on your own research?
I have taught two courses, ‘Disease detectives’, the pre-designed Key Stage 3 course (teaching year 7/8s), and my own course, ‘Can we mend a broken heart?’ which is Key Stage 4 (year 9 and 10s).
What made you want to apply to be a Scholars Programme tutor?
In school, I had some amazing teachers who inspired me throughout my own learning journey – giving back and sharing my passion for science with the younger generation really appealed to me.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your Scholars Programme placements so far?
There were a couple specific moments. For example, I remember when teaching the diseases detectives course, one of my pupils was so captivated by the discovery of penicillin and its mechanism of action, they overwhelmed me with questions I didn’t even think about before. But rewarding moments happen in every tutorial, seeing students progressing, each at their own pace.
Tell us a bit more about being a Scholars Programme tutor. Has it helped in your development as a research student?
Yes, being part of this programme has definitely helped my presentation skills. As a research student you get few chances to speak in front of an audience, so it has been an amazing opportunity to extend these skills. But this programme goes well beyond your professional development, it also strikes a chord with your own feelings of empathy, sympathy, and kindness. It’s encouraged me to become more empathic and understanding towards the individual needs of pupils. The Scholars Programme community too, has provided me with a source of continuous support from day one.
How do you think you have made a difference to pupils as a Scholars Programme tutor?
I hope I made the pupils think a little bit more about the world around us and particularly, in the middle of a viral pandemic, about viruses and other infectious diseases. I also hope I managed to increase their confidence in their own abilities. The harsh reality is that as students grow older, it might get harder to instil in them a passion for learning. But it is not impossible! Some of the students who complained the most, wrote the best essays!
Do you have any advice for someone looking to apply to work as a Scholars Programme tutor?
The Scholars Programme is an amazing opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people and be part of a friendly and supportive community. Not to mention it is a time machine to take you back to your school years from a slightly different perspective!
The Brilliant Club is an award-winning university access charity. They recruit and train doctoral and post-doctoral researchers to deliver programmes of university-style teaching to pupils in schools that serve under-represented communities. They work in partnership with universities and schools across the UK; to date around 2000 researchers have worked as PhD tutors, including many from King’s College London. Tutors can be involved in The Scholars Programme, where they create and teach a course based on their own research, or The Brilliant Tutoring Programme, carrying out curriculum based tuition as part of the national Covid catch-up scheme. Throughout, they are supported by the Researcher Development Programme which develops 4 key competencies; Teaching and Pedagogy, Communication and Public Engagement, Professional and Career Development, and Fair Access. If you’d like to find out more about these paid teaching opportunities, you can contact The Brilliant Club.