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November 11, 2016

To Whom It May Concern:


I am delighted to submit this letter in as part of Laura Kleins participation in the Saint
Louis University Certificate in University Teaching Skills (CUTS) program. Laura joined
my lab as Ph.D. student in Fall 2012. During her graduate program Laura excelled in her
coursework, passed her qualifying exams, developed an exciting and viable research
project examining diversity and diversification processes in North American grapevine
species (Vitis spp.), and developed outstanding skills as a university teacher. She is a
skilled botanist with strong statistical skills, a terrific work ethic, and a great attitude. The
purpose of this letter is to address Lauras teaching history and to summarize interactions
we have had during her completion of the CUTS program.
Over the past four years I have observed Laura interact with undergraduate students in a
range of different situations including structured class, labs, and also as a mentor for
independent research experiences. In my opinion Laura possess all of the skills that
characterize successful, effective teachers. She is knowledgeable about her subject
material, thoughtful about course preparation, and very organized. Laura is a very
enthusiastic person who genuinely loves the science of botany. She is approachable,
warm, and connects easily with students.
Laura came to my lab with an extremely solid foundation in botany. As an undergraduate
student at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Laura worked closely with Dr. Tom
Lammers with whom she completed a morphological analysis of Lobelia species in the
herbarium at the Missouri Botanical Garden. From there, Laura moved to Miami
University in Oxford Ohio where she studied fern morphology with Dr. Jim Hickey and
Dr. Mike Vincent. Lauras Masters thesis described morphological variation in three
species of Diphasiastrum and assessed interspecific hybridization among the species.
During her Masters degree program at Miami University Laura served as a teaching
assistant for Field Botany where she designed the syllabus, prepared lectures and lab
exercises, and developed exams. She also served as a lecture and discussion assistant in
Evolution: Just a Theory?
At Saint Louis University Laura has been studying diversity in North American grape
species, part of a large lab project focused on understanding how perennial plants have
evolve in response to their abiotic environments and the genetic basis of abiotic stress

response in perennial crops. Lauras component of this project involves studying


communities of sympatric grapevine species with the goals of understanding species
boundaries and the impacts of interspecific hybridization on morphological (leaf shape)
and genetic variation in natural Vitis populations. At the center of her project are two
interfertile sister species V. riparia and V. rupestris whose natural populations are
differentiated morphologically and with respect to climatic variables (temperature and
precipitation) as well as substrate. Laura is using morphological and population genomic
data to understand divergence processes between these two taxa and their relationships
with sympatric congeners.
Laura served as a teaching assistant for four semesters as part of her dissertation research,
two semesters in Principles of Biology I and two semesters in Biology of Plants and
Fungi, a course I taught. In the Biology of Plants of Fungi Lauras contributions far
exceeded those expected of a graduate teaching assistant. She was instrumental in helping
to redesign the syllabus. She developed advanced, revised drafts of every laboratory
exercise, including rubrics for performance. This contributed in a significant way to the
improvement of the lab section of the course and the course in general. She also
developed a detailed guide for students detailing appropriate methods for drawing plants
observed with a light microscope and a dissecting microscope in lab. Lauras intellectual
contributions to the content of this course were significant and indicate that she is ready
and able to develop a course independently.
In addition to developing content, Laura taught students both in the lab and in the lecture
section of Biology of Plants and Fungi. For example, I observed Laura give a 70-minute
lecture on fern diversity in Spring 2016. Laura developed a beautiful power point that
included primarily images with relative few words. The presentation was well organized
with an outline and primary learning objectives. She was deliberate in her presentation of
the information and was careful to explain technical concepts and request feedback from
the students. I noticed that Laura was enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and made good eye
contact with the students. I think the students connected immediately with Laura and
were engaged in her presentation. One way in which the presentation could have been
improved is through the inclusion of some student-directed learning exercises, perhaps
having the students draw something, answer questions, or discuss concepts in a small
group. I think Laura exhibits a strong respect for students, solid knowledge and an
infectious enthusiasm that exceeds what I usually observe in the classroom.
Teaching biology in a university setting often involves student learning outside of a
traditional classroom, for example as part of a research lab. As a PhD student working in
my lab group at Saint Louis University, it is noteworthy that Laura supervised eleven
undergraduate students in research activities since 2012, including 10 Saint Louis
University undergraduates and one student from Harris Stowe State University. I have
observed Laura interact with these students and have been impressed with her capacity to
organize research activities, corral schedules, and apply the enthusiasm of skilled,
dedicated students to advance her research goals. Laura has supervised undergraduates in
a range of different research activities including plant collection in the field, DNA
extraction and quantification, digital morphometrics, and bioinformatics. She supervised

two students as part of the Missouri Botanical Gardens NSF-funded Research


Experiences for Undergraduates program. The research generated by Laura and the
undergraduates has been presented at local and national conferences, and some of it has
been published or is in preparation for publication. The students that have worked under
Lauras direction have gone on to attend graduate school, medical school, and divinity
school.
In summary, Laura Klein has accumulated an impressive array of teaching and mentoring
experiences during her time as a graduate student at Saint Louis University. I have
observed her teaching in the classroom, completed the faculty mentor feedback form,
reviewed her statement of teaching philosophy, and have reviewed her teaching portfolio.
Through the CUTS program Laura has very thoughtfully reflected on her own
educational experiences, her work as a teacher and mentor, and her professional goals for
disseminating knowledge through teaching in the future. Laura is exactly the type of
person I would like to have as a colleague teaching in a university setting: she is
knowledgeable, organized, enthusiastic, sincere, and approachable. She is passionate
about her subject material and about the well being of her students.
Laura has my highest recommendation for the CTTLs Certificate in University
Teaching Skills. Please do not hesitate to contact me if there is any additional
information I can provide or if any questions arise.
Sincerely,

Allison Miller
Associate Professor, Department of Biology, Saint Louis University
Research Associate, Missouri Botanical Garden
amille75@slu.edu