Svetlana Kilina, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry
Published September 2016
Kilina is a noted researcher and teacher, whose courses are in general chemistry, quantum chemistry and computational chemistry. After earning master's degrees at Belarusian State University, Belarus, and her doctorate at the University of Washington, Seattle, she was a Director's Postdoctoral Fellow at the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico from 2007-10.
How did you decide to pursue your profession?
My high school physics teacher was an inspiring example to me. She was able to show how remarkable science can be. She explained complicated physical concepts in a very straightforward and clear way, while involving students in discussions, speculations and hypothesis generation.
What do you like best about teaching?
I appreciate being able to closely communicate with the young generation and see their progress in thinking.
What is your favorite class or topic to teach?
Computational chemistry. In this course, I assign students small scientific projects that they carry out during the semester. They learn how to apply modern computational software to modeling chemical and photophysical properties of molecules. Students are free to choose any topic for their projects, including doctoral projects.
How would you describe your teaching style?
Active learning. I try to involve all students in class activities. Therefore, I ask many questions to students during my lecture. I create true/false type of questions, which students answer in a "gladiator style" by pushing their thumbs either up (true) or down (false). I also organize group discussions.
How do you know you’ve succeeded with a student or a class?
The first sign that students understand a concept is that they are contributing during the lecture or at least are carefully listening. If they are with me, I see their eyes. Another good sign, when students come to one-to-one or in-group office hours and out-of-class discussion/problem-solving sessions. If students come to these optional after-class activities, they are really interested in my course.
What is the most common trait or traits of successful students?
This is the student’s ability to answer in a clear and cohesive way to the question. If a student cannot explain his or her answer in a clear way, it is a sign that there is no real understanding of a concept. Another trait is a readiness of working on the problems by themselves and asking for help only after the student has tried several approaches to a solution.
What has been the best moment of your teaching career so far?
An undergraduate student who took my physical chemistry course came to my group to get some experience in research in computational and physical chemistry. Then he decided to apply to the graduate school and later joined my group as a doctoral student. Initially, he had not even thought about graduate studies.
What is something every student should experience before they graduate from NDSU?
Everyone is different, and a special experience also has to be different for each student.
What is your favorite NDSU tradition?
The green and yellow colors.