Tim Jenkins received his BS in Physiology and Developmental Biology in 2008 from Brigham Young University. He received his PhD in Physiology from the University of Utah in 2013. Tim’s research has focused on using DNA methylation for the diagnosis of many conditions from male infertility to cancer.
Dr. Jenkins' main passion in research is identifying predictive epigenetic patterns that are easily translated to clinically actionable diagnostic tests. Tim loves to spend time with his wife, Amy, and his three children, Drake, Brooklyn, and Charlotte.
I always try to make sure to understand what they need/want from their experience in a research lab. With each student I spend time talking one-on-one to determine their intentions. Following this discussion, it is usually quite easy to help them understand expectations and empower them to make the experience what they would like it to be. To make sure I am always aware of their current intentions for the experience, I meet with each student at the end of each semester (in addition to informal meetings).
For students who are interested in science as a career (biotech, academia, etc.) I shape the experience differently. I often give these students more space to operate so that they can experience, and grow from, the challenges and rewards of running their own project. This can be a bit of an uncomfortable process as the learning curve can be quite steep. The students that go through this process become remarkably adept in critical scientific thinking and are well prepared for a future career in many industries.
I try to foster reflection at each weekly lab meeting. One aspect of this is just making students present their work, but even more impactful I believe are opportunities to discussion the “why” of our work during these meetings. These discussions arise organically, but I believe it helps everyone understand better how their project(s) fit into the broader landscape of how our work can improve clinical care.
In my experience, the most important aspects to having an inspiring learning environment is to make sure that my students know that I trust them and care about their success. If my students know this, they feel comfortable asking questions and feel comfortable being wrong. This fosters extremely productive conversations and helps students develop and learn to deal well with setbacks. At BYU we have a unique charge that the undergraduate students are our central focus. Their inexperience creates challenges, but I have found that by trusting them with complex and difficult projects, the students gain tremendous confidence and quickly begin functioning much more like graduate students or even post-doctoral fellows.
Students are given a directive, a project, and an explanation of the point of the work and how it can be accomplished and then they are set loose to try and figure it out. This can be a challenging experience for students, but far more is gained through this exercise than if I walk through the whole thing with them. Once students have struggled with the problem for a time, they come back to me and describe their efforts, failures and successes and I help guide them to the right solution. This is repeated for weeks and sometimes months. Eventually, the student begins to come with fewer problems and more successes until they have truly mastered the techniques.