Faculty Experiences - Gary Galbraith

Gary Galbraith - photoGARY GALBRAITH

Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences

Interview Topics

What matters most to you in your teaching?

How are you using technology as a tool to achieve your teaching goals?

How have your students responded to your use of technology?

What new goals do you have for using technology in teaching?

How could the University better facilitate the use of technology in instruction?


Work with real data

Publishing work

Show what you're talking about

Student presentations

Learn by doing


Professional tools

PowerPoint (software)

Mentoring, Training and Collaborating with Students in Research Projects

When I get a piece of chalk in my hand, there is a switch in my hypothalamus that gets turned on. I get animated. I love going to the blackboard to start “diagramming” to explain things. I love questions and interactions with students.

When I came to UCLA 31 years ago, I was assigned to work off-campus at Lanterman Development Center in Pomona (it was called Pacific State Hospital at that time). It was a very active research site for mental retardation but it is 50 miles away from the Westwood campus. It was difficult to find graduate students who wanted to give up their time on campus to come to Lanterman. But when we began teaching the Developmental Disability Immersion Program (DDIP)curriculum, I realized that these UCLA undergraduates were my ersatz graduate students. They are bright, motivated and hardworking undergraduate students -- they are in my lab for 12 hours per week, 6 months per year.

I relate to my DDIP students as colleagues, not just as a mentor or as a professor. I believe it is important to know and treat my students as colleagues. My students and I get to know each other pretty well and we are on a first name basis.

We are now in the 29th year of the DDIP program. We get our share of top science-type students but we also get students from humanities, social sciences and arts. At first the non-science majors are reluctant to come to my lab because it is all wires, cables, knobs and brain wave traces but I reassure them that I will provide all the training they will need. I train them to use the computers and the electronic equipment such as EEG amplifiers and oscilloscopes. Once they become familiar with the equipment, they work in my lab running the experiments on brain wave patterns. In return they become the co-authors of my publications. I have around 60 co-authors who are UCLA undergraduates

In addition to the publication credit, the students also get to present in a research symposium at the culmination of the program every June. They present their completed brain research with PowerPoint to faculty, parents and friends. We train them on how to make a scientific presentation – the format and the language -- and how to use PowerPoint. The students surprise themselves at how much they have achieved.

In addition to mentoring students at the DDIP program, I also come to campus once a week to teach a Neuroscience upper division course. I enjoy getting to know my students. Even before the class meets for the quarter, I email the 25 enrolled students to introduce myself and correspond with them a few times. Then I find a student who’s interested in digital photography to take pictures of all the students in the class so I can have a visual roster. I want to be able to connect their faces and their names very quickly. They appreciate that I put effort into knowing their names and giving them personal attention.

When I get a piece of chalk in my hand, there is a switch in my hypothalamus that gets turned on. I get animated, I love it. I love going to the blackboard to start “diagramming” and to explain things. I love questions and interactions with students. I don’t just “dump” lecture materials on students.

I use PowerPoint to teach my Neuroscience class. In my lecture I show slides of brain images, charts, data, graphs and experiments. I burn my PowerPoint lectures onto CDs and distribute them to students in advance so they can look at them or print them in advance. This way, it is easier for them to take notes and process the concepts while I am lecturing. I know they appreciate this use of technology and it simplifies everything.

I bring in a lot of equipment (for example, EEG amplifiers, oscilloscope and function generators) into my Neuroscience class to demonstrate electrophysiological phenomena. I put electrodes on a volunteer’s head and show brain wave patterns to my students. Since I come from off-campus, I have to cart all this equipment from an animal lab that I have in the Factor Building and from Lanterman. I do this because I have a lot of fun doing live demonstrations with students. I think students respond very well to it. One student said that she was mesmerized by the demo. It is total enjoyment for me when I see students get excited about the process. I love putting the concepts out there and making them come alive. Everything is data rich; there are a lot of graphs because my main purpose is to explain the concepts. These demonstrations make the concepts real to them. They also see how really easy it is to record useful data when you have the right equipment.

By participating in demos, students learn hands-on . They learn how to use the equipment; for example, placing electrodes and taking measurements. Sometimes things stop because they discover that they have a problem. When this happens, the students have to retrace their steps and figure out what went wrong, for example, perhaps they forgot to throw a switch. Every step along the way they are figuring things out -- that’s how they learn.

I actually have several students from my course that have gone into labs where everything I taught in the course has been directly useful to them. Recently, I walked into a lab of a colleague and saw one of my students sitting at a computer looking at the very kind of graphs that I taught in my class. She told me “I understand this, it makes sense to me.” That was very gratifying for me.

While I do my research, I get to mentor students and train them to do research and collaborate with me. I consider myself lucky to be able to combine my love for teaching with my research.

Oral Interview, February 2005