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Revision as of 13:30, 21 September 2011 by AgiStachowiak (talk | contribs) (Core Teaching Values: Goals and Expectations)
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Contact Information


Technical Instructor
Department of Biological Engineering
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Office: 617.324.1940 (Room 16-319)
Teaching Lab: 617.452.2886 (Room 56-322)

astachow AT mit DOT edu

Background and Education

Prior to joining the teaching faculty here in Biological Engineering, I was myself educated at MIT for ten years (this is sometimes derisively referred to as being a "lifer"). I first acquired an S.B. in Chemical Engineering (2001), then a Ph.D. in Polymer Science and Engineering under the auspices of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (2007). My interest in the interface between biology and materials came about late in my undergraduate career, and I was fortunate to pursue this interest at the graduate level in Darrell Irvine's lab. In addition to a challenging and engaging research experience, graduate school offered me a chance to hone my teaching (assistant) chops, first in 3.012 (thermodynamics), then in 20.361 (biotechnology). I have a passion for the written word, whether reading literature or enabling effective and elegant science communication. My greatest interest now is in fostering a science-literate citizenry by multiple tacks: at the college instructor level, this means developing the abilities of students to navigate a large body of information, to understand the logic of experimental design, and to communicate their findings to myriad audiences.

Core Teaching Values: Goals and Expectations

Lessons from year four
Lessons from year three
Lessons from year two
Lessons from year one

  • Transparency - I would like to convey to you why you are learning what you are learning at every stage, and also how you will be held accountable for this knowledge. In turn, I expect you to keep me abreast of any bugs or features of the course.
  • Responsibility - I hope to take the basics (keeping up with classwork, being considerate of your labmates) for granted. Rather, I aspire for us to engage in issues both intrinsic and seemingly peripheral to the course, such as the ethical implications of biotechnology.
  • Adaptability - No matter what your next career may be, adaptation to unexpected outcomes and the ability to redefine your strategy and goals will be vital. In my own case, flexibility and experimentation with pedagogical methods is a priority. Please do not hesitate to give me feedback.

Teaching History


Fall 2007 - Laboratory Fundamentals of Biological Engineering, subject 20.109 - instructor
Spring 2008 - subject 20.109 - instructor and lecturer
Fall 2008 - subject 20.109 - instructor
Spring 2009 - subject 20.109 - instructor and lecturer
Fall 2009 - subject 20.109 - instructor
Fall 2009 - Thermodynamics of Biomolecular Systems, subject 20.110 - recitation instructor
Spring 2010 - subject 20.109 (OpenCourseWare version here) - instructor and lecturer
Fall 2010 - baby-raising!
Spring 2011 - subject 20.109 - instructor and lecturer

Other projects

Summer 2008 — primary author of departmental guidelines for undergraduate education best practices
Summer 2009, 2010 — co-organizer of departmental TA training

Research Interests

1. Biomaterials - especially natural and synthetic polymers.
2. Immunology - particularly T cell motility and lymphoid chemokines.


Current Recommended Reads

  • 2010 One day in my free time I will review pregnancy and infancy books...
  • 2009 Spring/Summer here
  • 2008 Year in Review here
  • Winter 2008
    • How Doctors Think, by Jerome Groopman (review)
    • Woman: An Intimate Geography, by Natalie Angier (review)
  • Summer 2007
    • Popular science - Endless Forms Most Beautiful, by Sean Carroll
    • Fiction - Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson