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Gatepost Interview: Claudia Kale, biology professor

By Nadira Wicaksana

What is your educational and professional background?

I went to Stonehill College and I have a bachelor’s degree in biology, and also a bachelor’s in religious studies. I went to grad school in Nashville – at Vanderbilt – and I got my Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology. Then, I did a post-doc for a year, so all my research experience is cell division and mitosis, cytokinesis – that kind of stuff. I’ve been teaching for 10 years – that’s most of what I’ve done. After graduate school, we moved to Wisconsin and my first teaching position was at a technical college teaching microbiology, and then we moved back here about three-and-a-half years ago. So, I’ve had various teaching positions at different schools around here since then. I was a visiting lecturer here starting 2016, but became full-time this year.

How did you become interested in your discipline?

My father was a funeral director, so when I was little, I always wanted to know what the cause of death was. And so, I started with an interest in anatomy and physiology, and I thought I would become a physician. But almost as soon as I started intro to bio courses in college, I realized I liked cellular-based things better than the larger anatomy and physiology fields.

What influenced you to become a teacher?

I was in college, a senior in a microbiology course. One of our assignments was to do a project, and at the end of the semester, we had to present it to our classmates. I presented my project, and I was just absolutely positive that I had knocked it out of the park and that I had done a great job. But my professor was just shaking his head at me and everyone just had these blank looks on their faces – they didn’t understand a word of what I’d just said. My professor just shook his head and said, “Try that again.” So, I basically had to start right off the bat trying to teach it a different way. It was off the cuff, and I was winging it a little bit, but I tried it a little differently – a lot less formal. I saw everyone’s expression change from, “What is she talking about?” to “Oh, I get it now.” And I liked that, that I was able to translate the concept into something more understandable. And that’s kind of what ultimately pushed me in this direction.

Are you currently working on any projects?

Right now, my workload is all teaching-based, but I have [past] projects that are related to cell division and cell-cycle control. I am working on starting a collaboration on amino acid metabolism, too, but technically none right now.

What kinds of classes do you teach?

Here, it’s all biology courses. Most of my students are sophomores and juniors. I teach a genetics lab and I’ve taught microbiology here, and I’m also teaching cell biology right now.

What are some things you like to do in your free time?

I read a lot. I have an 8-year-old, so I spend a lot of time hanging out with her and attending events at her school whenever I have the time. And I like to run.

What do you enjoy most about working with students?

How different they all are. No days are exactly the same. I can teach the same course more than one semester, and when you put all the individual students together, each semester, each classroom is a little different and I think they end up teaching me more than I teach them in terms of how to interact with them and how to get the most out of the class.

What is some advice you have for FSU students?

Take everything that happens in a class – every grade, every lecture, every activity – and treat it as a learning experience, even if you didn’t get the grade you wanted or even if the material sounded confusing, or even if you thought that the lecture was especially long and boring. Treat it all as something that can help you achieve your goals, whether they are directly related to your subject or more life experience-based. Just look at everything as shaping your future.

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