Nesrine Affara, assistant teaching professor of biological sciences
Nesrine Affara, assistant teaching professor of biological sciences

CMU announces Nesrine Affara as 2020-21 Wimmer Faculty Fellow

Nesrine Affara has been named one of six Wimmer Faculty Fellows for the 2020-21 academic year. Affara, who joined CMU-Q in 2017, is an assistant teaching professor of biological sciences.

Wimmer fellowships are offered by CMU’s Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Educational Innovation to encourage junior faculty members to explore the way they teach. Last year Mohamed Bouaouina became the first Wimmer Faculty Fellow at the Qatar campus.

Affara’s project idea stemmed from a physiology course she taught that was open to both biology students and those from other programs. She found it challenging to teach to the two groups of students: one with significant background in the area, and the other with very little. “I couldn’t nurture the two cohorts at the same time, so I suggested teaching physiology for only biology students, and I came up with a new course for non-majors called Human Health and Disease.”

Affara taught the first Human Health and Disease course in the fall 2019 term, and she tried to find ways to link the scientific concepts to the students’ experiences. “I included activities that could correlate anatomy, physiology, and disease to their areas of study. They looked to see what discoveries were in the media, and they presented their findings to the class.”

Affara was inspired to incorporate more active learning sessions into the course. For the Wimmer fellowship proposal, she suggested replacing one lecture per week with clinical scenarios that the students solve together.

“I want to empower them. You know, they often feel intimidated about learning biology and physiology. These interactive sessions will help them get engaged in their own learning, so they can explore and learn while they work through the scenarios.”

Affara’s fellowship will include writing the scenarios, delivering the course in the fall 2020 semester, and assessing how well the students learn from this new approach. With the COVID-19 pandemic, Affara will be teaching the course online. “We will have to tweak the course, maybe have the students go into break-out rooms. It will be a little different, but we are planning for that.”

For Affara, the fellowship is an opportunity to deepen her knowledge of teaching and pedagogy and to further leverage the resources and expertise available through the Eberly center. “At CMU-Q, you have this unique opportunity to really get to know your students on a more personal basis and I am very excited about learning new ways to engage with them.”

For her Wimmer fellowship, Nesrine Affara wants to inspire students to explore questions of health and disease.

For her Wimmer fellowship, Nesrine Affara wants to inspire students to explore questions of health and disease.

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