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Undergraduate Programs

Become a Learning Assistant

Penn State provides students with several opportunities to work within the classroom and hone their teaching skills.  In particular the department provides the opportunity for students to apply to become Learning Assistants.

Learning Assistants (LAs) are peers that serve to facilitate collaborative active learning exercises both in class and during out-of-class problem solving sessions.  Learning Assistants work as a team with the faculty to help solidify student learning. Being an LA is a great way to develop the confidence and professional skills needed to be a teaching assistant or guided study group leader through Penn State Learning.  The LA program in the BMB Department is a part of a larger LA Initiative in Eberly College of Science.


LA positions are unpaid positions, but students do earn credit for their experience. Students that serve as an LA either earn BMB 408 or Sc240 credit, depending on the course that they LA for.  Students should consult with their academic advisor to learn how this credit can be applied to their degree requirements. 


Training to be an LA: 

All Learning assistants are expected to complete the 1 credit LA pedagogy course, Sc 220: Principles and Strategies for Effective STEM Learning I in order to help prepare them to be a LA, and to learn how to effectively facilitate student learning.  This course is a half-semester course, that can be taken during the semester of your first LA experience.  

Students report a multitude of benefits from serving as a Learning Assistant.  Check out the program and see for yourself!


Mollie Sweeney

"By being an LA, you get the unique opportunity to work with professors, your peer LA's, and your peers who are taking the class. Working with professors and other LA's on developing and implementing active learning exercises in the classroom was an invaluable teaching experience, and gave me a lot of insight into what it's like to teach effectively. It's not all teaching recitations either - I got to facilitate experimental demonstrations in class and even ran a Twitter page for one of my courses. Best of all, LAing for fundamental classes such as basic cell and molecular biology or introductory chemistry gives you an opportunity to re-teach yourself the most important concepts that form the basis of upper-level coursework. Ultimately you end up learning a lot about your own learning style in the process of gaining teaching skills."

Molly Sweeney, Class of 2018                                



Want to be a LA?

If you are a BMB, MICRB, or BIOTC student, you will be notified each semester when our departmental LA application is open to applicants for the following semester.  In addition, there are numerous LA opportunities across Eberly College of Science. Students should reach out to individual departments to learn more about LA opportunities in that department.

As a learning assistant (LA) for you will be expected to:

  • Act in a professional manner 

  • Attend class sessions for the classes you are assigned.

  • Interact with and guide the students during active learning exercises.

  • Meet with the instructor and other course LAs once a week to discuss upcoming exercises as well as any problems or concerns.

  • Take a 1 credit pedagogy course (Sc 220; Principles and Strategies for Effective STEM Learning I) 

    • times TBD based on schedules of selected LAs

    • selected LAs will need to self-enroll into one of the offered sections of Sc 220


Apply to be a LA:


In return you will:

  • Make a difference in the classroom climate and facilitate your peer’s learning.

  • Develop your professional network by having the opportunity to work closely with BMB faculty and other peers with common interests.

  • Develop your leadership and interpersonal skills.

  • Earn 1 credit of Sc 240 (for being an LA in Bi Sc 4) or 1 credit of BMB 408 (for being an LA in BMB, MICRB, or BIOTC courses) for your LA experience.  If awarded BMB 408, this credit can count as a 400-level elective for BMB and BIOTC majors.  

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