Personal Story - Swarna Mohan (Lecturer)

My name is Swarna Mohan and I am a lecturer and the BSCI171 lab coordinator in the CBMG

department. I was born in India, but moved to Pittsburgh, PA when I was 11 years old. I got my

undergraduate degree and my Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh and started my teaching

career at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). When I started at CMU, my position was a

temporary one, as I was covering for an instructor who was out for a year while trying to find

postdoc or industry positions. However, I found the experience so rewarding that I stayed at

CMU for two more years and got to teach one of my favorite courses, a year-long

undergraduate research course that was part of the SEA-PHAGES program. Mentoring and

teaching first year students as they completed a short research project in phage genomics was

a great experience and cemented my decision to continue pursuing a teaching career.


After CMU, I moved to San Diego and taught biology labs and lectures, including a version of the phage genomics course, at UCSD for two years. Although I loved the abundance of adorable reptiles in San Diego, I did not enjoy relentlessly sunny weather (Pittsburgh is a fairly cloudy city!). San Diego is a great place to visit, however I was happy to move back to the east coast after a few years. I started at UMD towards the end of July 2019 and was able to have one “normal” semester before the Covid-19 pandemic. Converting an introductory biology lab to an online format was not something I had expected to do during my first year at UMD, however it turned out to be a helpful experience that allowed me to reevaluate the learning goals of the lab course. I look forward to continuing to work on making the lab course more inquiry based and engaging.