Yale Center for Teaching and Learning

Helmsley Postdoctoral Teaching Scholars

The Helmsley Team

Picture of the Helmsley Postdocs

(L to R): Dr. Lake Bookman (Scholar), Dr. Claudia De Grandi (Scholar), Dr. Elizabeth Morse Luoma (Program Director), Dr. Savan Kharel (Scholar), Dr. Brett C. Smith (Scholar)

Helmsley Program Overview 

The Helmsley Charitable Trust generously supports four Helmsley Postdoctoral Scholars, two in physics and two in math. The Helmsley Scholars pioneer innovative teaching approaches in their respective Yale departments as well as at area partner institutions, employing the use of instructional technology and evidence-based teaching methods. Helmsley Scholars also play a vital role in planning and facilitating our STEM Education Seminar & Journal Club series and our annual Summer Institutes on Scientific Teaching to train STEM faculty and future faculty in evidence-based teaching. 

For more information: Yale News Press Release on Helmsley Program

Helmsley Innovative Teaching Showcase

Helmsley Scholars are committed to increasing student persistence in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields by employing evidence-based teaching strategies in their introductory courses. Here we will feature innovative teaching pioneered by our Helmsley Scholars: 

Claudia De Grandi

Claudia is committed to finding her optimal recipe for teaching physics effectively to a variety of students’ backgrounds via active learning methods and in-class engagement. Read her full bio here.

Claudia’s Random Walk Activity: “Students in PHYS 170 learn ‘by doing’. They discover what a random process is and how it diffuses in space by creating a human ensemble of random walkers in an outdoor space. They flip a coin to decide whether to move forward or backward, and they all move synchronously at the sound of a gong. They can thus appreciate visually the meanings of mean and standard deviation by looking at their classmates spreading in Becton Plaza. Students enjoy this kinesthetic experience of collectively being part of an experiment.” For more information, read Claudia’s full activity instructions here.    

Brett Smith

Brett is committed to making introductory math courses more accessible by regularly using peer instruction, just-in-time short response questions, and small group activities in class. Read his full bio here.

Screenshot of the mathematical video game Brett Smith designed.

Brett’s Math Video Game, Cartes: “In calculus, we study how functions change. Equations give us a way to algebraically understand this change and graphs give us a geometric interpretation. However, many of our students have weak intuition for the connection between equations and graphs. Professor James S. Rolf and I created a video game to help build that intuition.” For more details on the game, see the description here.