In Spring 2018, Sonia Travaglini was awarded with the prestigious Teaching Effectiveness Award (TEA), organized the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs and the Graduate Student Instructor Teaching & Resource Center. The TEA recognizes a small number of outstanding GSIs who have identified a particular teaching problem or issue in their own classes, sections, or laboratories and have developed, implemented, and assessed an appropriate and effective response to the problem or issue. Sonia Travaglini, a PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering, shares her time with the Coleman Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership as a Graduate Student Instructor for the E295 Communications for Engineering Leaders course.
Her essay, focuses on how important learning by experience is — explaining a new technology using science writing is not just about learning writing techniques. It’s about connecting to one’s work, understanding the value and impact it can have on an individual, then exploring sharing your thoughts through the written word.
Originally from England, Sonia Travaglini is fascinated with novel natural materials and currently researches Mycology (mushroom) materials while studying her PhD in Mechanical Engineering. As a passionate science writer and an educator, Sonia enjoys promoting communication and working to support future Engineers — outside of her work, Sonia also enjoys developing her American Sign Language and British Sign Language.
Alex Beliaev, Director of Academic Capstone Experience at the Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership, shared: “It’s been an honor working with Sonia over the past two years. She mad many contributions to our teaching team. Perhaps the most significant is inspiring students to write about engineering and science topics that compelled them to pursue engineering in the first place. The student-written op-eds — that responded to Sonia’s prompts — can be found https://medium.com/the-coleman-fung-institute. We’re very lucky to have her on our team!”
We fortunately had a chance to sit down and have a Q&A with Sonia to discuss what this recognition means to her and more.
What does it mean to you to be a recipient of the TEA?
It’s a proud moment! Working with the MEng students is inspiring, and helping them share the value of their work is what continues to motivate me to grow as a teacher.
What compelled you to submit an essay?
During my time with the Fung institute I’ve been glad to be a part of the journey MEng students experience as they develop their skills — I wanted to help fellow learners to explore science writing and how to use it to express the importance of their work.
Can you share a little about your teaching philosophy?
My teaching philosophy is student centered — my approach is rooted in empowering my students and supporting self-motivated learning. Engineering is as much an art as it is a science, and I encourage students to connect to their own life experiences to develop intuition and confidence in their writing.
What are some lessons you’ve learned through teaching?
The most important lesson for me is that learning is different for each student at each phase of their academic career — for experienced, accomplished learners such as the MEng teams, I learned that the best way for students to learn science writing, is by doing it.
How do you manage your PhD and being a GSI, and everything else you have on your plate?
Finding time for everything can be a challenge, but I find having a lot of projects going actually helps as every day is different. If my research is proving difficult, it cheers me up to read my students’ work and immerse myself in their research journey.
What is your favorite thing about Berkeley?
The huge range of things to get involved with at Berkeley! From the many Certificate programs to the maker spaces where you can 3D print, every semester I find something else new and exciting to do.
Congratulations Sonia on your well-deserved recognition!