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A Scientist’s Journey from Neuroscience Lab to a High School Science Class

Learn What Brought One NYC Scientist to Embark on a Rewarding Career Change Into the Classroom

Published February 17, 2023

A Scientist’s Journey from Neuroscience Lab to a High School Science Class

Neuroscience researcher and EnCorps Fellow, Chuhyon Corwin, traded her research lab for the classroom in a New York City public high school where she works as a science teacher.

Thanks to a partnership between the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) and the EnCorps STEM Teachers Program, Korean-born Corwin, an accomplished scientist, was able to explore her interest in teaching high school. For 10 weeks, with support from program staff, she was a volunteer guest teacher in the classroom of a skilled high school science teacher while, in parallel, exploring pedagogical techniques through the program’s online learning modules.

Launched in 2007, EnCorps has already helped over 1,360 seasoned STEM professionals transition from industry or academia to public middle or high school education to ease the acute shortage of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) teachers across the United States.

NYAS teamed up with EnCorps to launch the program in New York City in 2022. Corwin was part of the first cohort of New York EnCorps Fellows who had an opportunity to explore becoming a STEM teacher before committing to a career change.

“During my 10-week guest teaching, I fell in love with the students,” explains Corwin. “The joy I experienced gave me the confidence that I was making the right decision in becoming a high school teacher as a long-term career choice.”

Although Corwin had taught university students, she found the work very different in high school. Teachers have to actively engage with their students and ensure they are paying attention. They also have to make sure that students who struggle get the assistance they need to prevent them from falling behind.

Maintaining discipline among 30 teenagers and keeping them interested requires a great deal of creativity as well as solid classroom management methods. “With lab activities, you have to be conscious of their safety and make sure they have enough materials,” says Corwin. “The class itself is short, only 43 minutes, so it has to run like clockwork.”.

While teaching STEM to high schoolers requires dedication and hard work, Corwin finds nurturing young people’s innate curiosity hugely rewarding. She has witnessed the amazement that lights up her students’ faces when their lab experiments succeed. Her own enthusiasm for science and discovery has never abated and she appreciates the opportunity to transmit her passion to the next generation.

“I hadn’t realized how much I would enjoy talking with these students. They come up with good questions,” says Corwin. “At that age, students are so frank. They let you know exactly what they think and I love that.”

After completing her volunteer guest teaching experience with the EnCorps program, with the support and guidance from EnCorps and NYAS, Corwin enrolled in an accelerated program to gain her teaching credentials.

She doesn’t see her move to teaching as a major break in her life. “I’m simply redirecting my energy to continue my journey as a scientist to make a greater impact by raising more capable future scientists,” she says. “I think a teaching career is very appealing to people who love research. As a scientist, you explore different options, you try things out and reflect to find out what works best.” Using science fiction novels to engage students with STEM subjects is one of the innovative approaches Corwin discovered while studying for her educational degree.

Corwin sees her father in the students she teaches. While he never had the opportunity to finish high school, he greatly valued education and encouraged her to pursue her studies. He also instilled in her the importance of giving back. “Hopefully, people who have been in the STEM industry will see the value of giving back.”

Today, Corwin is a science teacher at the High School for Health Professions & Human Services in Manhattan, where she completed her guest teaching as an EnCorps Fellow. Corwin recommends the EnCorps STEM Teachers Program to scientists exploring entering the teaching profession. “They should try it. Even if in the end you decide not to become a teacher, it’s a valuable experience.”