Daniel Arnold, a fourth-year PhD student in UC Santa Barbara’s Chemical Engineering Department, has received the CSP Technologies Teacher-Scholar Fellowship for 2022-‘23. As a result, he and a faculty mentor will co-teach an undergraduate chemical engineering course during the upcoming academic year. Arnold said that he was thrilled and honored to receive the fellowship.
“I am excited for the opportunity to build upon my experience supporting undergraduate courses as a teaching assistant, by taking on a leading role in lecturing and crafting course material,” said Arnold. “I am also a bit nervous, as I am preparing to accept responsibility for training future chemical engineers in subject matter that they will use for the rest of their careers. Teaching challenging material effectively and in an inclusive manner is not an obligation that I take lightly.”
While serving as a TA, Arnold says that he has picked up on both explicit and implicit feedback from students to improve his teaching, gauging insight from the number of questions students ask, their attentiveness, or by directly asking them if they understand a concept.
“I enjoy teaching undergraduates because they often point out gaps in my own knowledge in areas that I may have previously taken for granted,” he said. “I also find it very rewarding to help undergraduates overcome difficulties with the course materials and to see their confidence grow as they succeed in solving challenging problems.”
Advised by Sho Takatori, an assistant professor of chemical engineering, Arnold studies the organization of mammalian plasma membranes, the highly heterogenous structures of lipids, proteins, and sugars that enclose cells and allow them to interact with their environment.
“I use bottom-up reconstitution to build simplified model membranes from their constituent molecules, so that I can characterize the way these different molecules interact and distribute themselves on the surface,” explained Arnold. “My work has potential implications in improving drug delivery and other targeted therapeutics whose efficacy is tied to their ability to interact with the plasma membrane in controllable and predictable fashion.”
Arnold, who earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical and biomolecular engineering from UC Berkeley, plans to model his teaching style after his undergraduate transport professor, Kranthi Mandapu, and Takatori, his advanced transport professor and advisor. Both professors, he said, were very keen to relate more abstract and difficult physical concepts in fluid mechanics to more concrete physical phenomena, such as cavitation on a ship’s propellor or the formation of droplets from a falling column of water.
“I hope to follow their model to show students that many chemical engineering problems which seem tricky on paper are actually just mathematical descriptions of everyday phenomena that may be quite familiar to them,” said Arnold, who previously received a prestigious Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation.
Arnold adds that effective and inclusive undergraduate programs are crucial for the progress and development of the chemical engineering field, describing the undergraduate experience as a key make-or-break moment in which many people decide whether or not to become an engineer.
“I am interested in teaching undergraduate courses because I want to strengthen my field by recruiting a well-trained and diverse class of future chemical engineers,” said Arnold, who is considering an academic career once he completes his PhD because he enjoys teaching and working to expand the field of soft matter and biophysics. “I think most people who like their jobs tend to enjoy sharing that joy with others. I certainly enjoy sharing my chemical engineering knowledge with students who want to learn the skills needed to develop technological solutions to the world’s many challenges.”