Faculty Spotlight: Justin Shaffer

IMG_4755Justin F. Shaffer, Ph.D., is an Assistant Teaching Professor in Developmental and Cell Biology and the recent awardee of the 2016 Golden Apple Award for outstanding teaching.

“Everything that I do as a teacher comes down to the fact that I want my students (and society as a whole for that matter) to appreciate, understand and ultimately be excited about science, said Professor Shaffer. “I believe that student excitement and engagement are the foundation for improving scientific literacy, building solid critical thinking and analysis skills and preparing for successful scientific and technical careers.”

Professor Shaffer joined UCI in 2013 and has taught several courses for the Ayala School, including Bio 93 (DNA to Organisms), Bio Sci D170 (Applied Human Anatomy) and Bio Sci 9B (The Biology and Chemistry of Food and Cooking).  In addition to his teaching, his research centers on assessing the efficacy of high structure teaching practices in a variety of college science classes.  High structure teaching involves pre-class assignments, in-class active learning, weekly review assignments, and multiple cumulative exams.  More specifically, he is studying the impacts of in-class active learning exercises and out-of-class assignments on student performance and attitudes in a variety of contexts.

In addition to his teaching and research, Professor Shaffer serves on the Developmental and Cell Biology teaching committee and on the Ayala undergraduate curriculum committee.  He also serves as Director of the “Becoming an Effective Mentor” workshop series, which trains Ayala School graduate students and postdocs on effective mentoring of undergraduates in the research lab.

Professor Shaffer earned his B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Penn State University and his Ph.D., in Bioengineering from the University of Washington. His training in engineering helped him develop his problem solving skills and creativity, which he uses every day.  Before arriving at UCI, He worked as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of North Carolina and was a member of the SPIRE postdoctoral program where he obtained training in modern evidence-based college science teaching.  It was at this time that Professor Shaffer realized his passion for teaching and earned experience developing and teaching biology courses at North Carolina A&T State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Professor Shaffer is happily married to Brittany Shaffer and they have two children: Teddy (5 years old) and Bernardine (11 months old). In his spare time, he enjoys running, biking, and exploring nature.  He is a huge sports fan (especially football and basketball) and follows the teams in Cleveland, Ohio.

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