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Merritt K. Taylor, Ph.D. Associate Professor Biomedical Sciences Department

July 23, 2013 I am delighted to write a letter of recommendation for a teaching position for Doug Peterson. I have known Doug since he was a sophomore (5 years) and began working in my laboratory as a research student. He is an incredible learner, and I was happy to discover, an outstanding teacher and team player. His ability and attitude were critical for keeping this lab running and for teaching others, including a high school student, the fundamentals of our techniques and research field. First let me say that Doug could have done anything, and that he chose teaching because of his love for the profession. His success in research and course work would have put him as a top candidate for MD, PhD, or combined degree (MD/PhD) programs, where many students from my lab and classes have placed. Doug excelled in his coursework of the two most challenging science majors at GVSU-- Cell and Molecular Biology and Biomedical Science. When he came to me and said he wanted to double major, I actually advised against it, in fear that the course load would be overwhelming. Doug clearly proved me wrong and has thrived in his courses. His professors are deeply impressed with him, and because I am his research mentor, they try to give me some of the credit. However Doug is one of those people who would have succeeded wildly without my help. His ability to take apart concepts, think critically about questions at hand, and to think of new and interesting questions has been an asset to the lab. Even when he was an undergraduate, I put him on par with graduate students that I have worked with at the University of Michigan. Doug has presented his work in multiple professional forums, including the American Society of Cell Biology, the Michigan Society for Neuroscience, and for student run groups like the Cognitive Neuroscience Club. He was written multiple papers on this topic, including one through a summer scholarship program (student summer scholars) here at GVSU that is published on the web (we have an embargo of 2 years while the data is being assembled for a manuscript). I know that Doug has done an incredible amount of training as a Woodrow Wilson fellow, but I saw some of this talent even while he was here.. he worked with a high school junior through a program with a neighboring school (Catholic Central), drafted a syllabus and worked with the student one-on-one to help promote his research success. This gave him additional insight into the capabilities of high-school science students in a rare context of solving problems (both conceptual and technical) in an open-ended, inquiry based approach. That student is now doing research in engineering undergraduate at the University of Michigan.
312 Padnos 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, MI 49401-9403 (616) 331-8839 taylomer@gvsu.edu

As I mentioned above, Doug could have done anything, but his experience in high school informed him that he wanted to go back and make things different. Doug describes his arrival at GVSU as tremendously difficult because of the lack of preparation his high school gave him. He wants to go back and make a change so that students will excel rather than fail when they get to college. Dougs teaching skills are evident in his presentations and his team work skills. Doug has given outstanding presentations to professionals in the field and to undergraduate and high school students. He has a natural gift for being able to translate his understanding of a concept into communicable language. I remember an overhearing an exchange between him and a freshman student who was in the lab. The freshman student did not want me to know that he was lost-- he asked Doug a very basic but tricky question in the field-- Doug handled it expertly and confidentially, talking about how tricky this part of model was compared to the other more straightforward ideas. And some of this did not come from me, so I was worried that he may go off. But his depth of knowledge and reading had been critical and thoughtful so that he was able to successfully communicate the complexities of the situation. Doug has dealt with all kinds of circumstances in his tenure here, including having to troubleshoot failing experiments, work with one particularly crabby administrative support staff and students who were uncertain about how to pipette. He sailed through these situations very well, making sure that students felt supported, that the concerns of staff were understood and addressed appropriately, and very frustrating challenges. Even outside of the work he has done in graduate school, Doug has demonstrated leadership-- an interesting example is when he was a soccer coach for elementary school kids-- he would often recount their adventures when they had misunderstood what he asked them to do. He described this giving him insight into teaching others about what we were doing in the lab and patience when working with students. Sometimes fundamental assumptions are different between the leader and those who are being lead. Doug is a thoughtful, energetic, enthusiastic can-do individual. We have also had conversations about the state of high school education and we've talked about what he can bring to the table-- his experience and expertise could give an opportunity for a science program to bloom into strong problem based learning methods and ensuring that students do have the capacity to think on their own and ask good, critical questions (I recommend checking out some of his flipped classroom lectures). Not many people have the combination of technical expertise (molecular biology all the way to anatomical techniques in organismal biology) and a solid diverse foundation in the sciences. Obviously, no one knows everything, but he is one of those people who will keep learning and keep sharing with others. He will be a change agent. I give Doug Peterson my highest recommendation possible. I've worked with over 25 undergraduates in my laboratory over the past five years and taught what is approaching a thousand (our class sizes can be very large). Doug is one of the best I've seen, in the top 1%. You don't want to miss this one, he will be a star at whatever he does, but is especially well suited for teaching.
213 Padnos 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, MI 49401-9403 (616) 331-8839 taylomer@gvsu.edu

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have. Many thanks,

Merritt K. Taylor Ph.D.

213 Padnos 1 Campus Drive, Allendale, MI 49401-9403 (616) 331-8839 taylomer@gvsu.edu