Member Spotlight: Bingcan Chen

A member of the Professional Educator Common Interest Group on how he his navigating teaching and conducting research in a newly remote world.

Bingcan ChenDr. Bingcan Chen has been an active member of AOCS since 2016 and former student member of the Society. He received his Ph.D. in 2012 from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and is currently an Assistant Professor of Cereal and Food Chemistry at the North Dakota State University. Dr. Chen’s research focuses on lipid oxidation, novel antioxidants, specialty oil from new and emerging crops and flavor chemistry.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you teach?

I teach Food Analysis along with its associated lab activities and part of the Advanced Cereal and Food Chemistry this semester. Here at North Dakota State University, we switched to remote teaching for the second half of spring classes with less than two weeks of preparation time. While I can deliver lectures to my students by “yelling” at my webcam, the courses that rely on in-class participation, such as Food Analysis Lab activities had to be cancelled. It has been a big challenge for such hands-on courses to make the transition online.

What tools and resources have you used that you might suggest other professors give a try to help adjust to virtual learning?

I used the Blackboard learning management system since I joined NDSU and have found it to be a useful teaching tool, even in less virtual times. There are a whole bunch of integrated tools in this system. For instance, YuJa allows instructors to manage videos and record lecture. In addition, I find Zoom is useful as well for engaging with my students.

How has COVID-19 changed the way you conduct research?

Here at NDSU, research activity has slowed down drastically as only one person is allowed in laboratory at a time during social distancing and many of the facilities are shut down. The final thesis defenses for our graduate students are being conducted virtually. In the meantime, I find that my graduate students and I have more time to read literature and books which is extremely helpful for our future research.

What tools and resources have you used that were helpful in continuing to conduct research during this time?

I have found the AOCS YouTube Channel is a great resource to continue conducting research remotely and the videos AOCS has uploaded from the past annual meeting are also very helpful. I have the chance to listen to great presentations that I was unable to attend during the meetings. Additionally, some free webinars offered by instrument companies like, Agilent Technologies, Inc. and Phenomenex, Inc., have also been useful for me to keep up to date with the latest techniques and practices.

What advice would you give to fellow educators during this time?

As all educators can agree, the well-being of our students is paramount during this unprecedented time. I personally have tried to teach virtually with a manageable amount of assignments and exams to avoid adding any unnecessary stress on my students. I also find sending students reminder emails for the due date of assignments and exams to help with the continuation of classes remotely and reducing their stress. If students missed any due date or online exam, I do give them a second chance.

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