Stephen Graham has been teaching at NC State since 2003, beginning by teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in toxicology. Graham currently teaches EA 503: Environmental Exposure Assessment and EA 502: Environment Risk Assessment to online students. We recently caught up with Graham to talk about his joy of teaching, research as well as advice for his online students.
Q. What’s been your experience with teaching online courses?
A. My role has largely been focused on technical development of course materials — lectures, projects, quizzes, etc. — while relying on others to perform administrative duties.
Q. Why do you enjoy teaching, specifically online courses and in the area of environmental assessment?
A. Teaching is a pleasure as it is an opportunity to share my knowledge and experiences with an interested audience. It has always been exciting to me to learn and is something we all continue to do throughout our lives. I am fortunate to be employed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Air and Radiation because it provided me with a tremendous amount of knowledge on how the national government works to provide clean air for all citizens. Before having that awareness, to me clean air appeared to happen without any effort. Once I had a firm understanding of my program area and the positive impact it had on improving health and the environment, in addition to better understanding how we can adversely affect air quality by the personal choices we make, that enlightenment led to great excitement. I can now use this newly acquired knowledge about U.S. air programs, in addition to my education and training as a scientist, to enlighten and perhaps excite others.
Q. What is your background and how has that enhanced your teaching?
A. I obtained an associate degree in applied science (A.A.S.) in laboratory technology at a local community college. That experience prepared me for transferring into a marine science program where I obtained my baccalaureate of science (B.S.) in marine biology. I had taken an elective course focused on environmental toxicology and found it very interesting, serving as the driver for more graduate aspirations. I obtained my doctor of philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in toxicology, with an environmental emphasis. I always had an interested in mathematics and took a few graduate statistics courses, serving to guide my career interests toward probabilistic modeling. Each of these educational experiences has trained me to use a systematic approach in addressing my work and teaching responsibilities.
Q. What’s the best advice you can give your online students?
A. Most students are well prepared for this type of coursework given their workplace and life experiences. Attitude is everything, with 90 percent of that centered on showing up, being entirely engaged and delivering work products on schedule.
Q. Are you currently involved in any research?
A. I perform a number of research activities, much of which would be considered applied research. I am largely focused on population-based human exposure modeling to understand both exposures and risks associated with ambient air pollution. I assist in the development of probabilistic exposure models, thus there are many opportunities to explore and evaluate model input data, its algorithms and the generated outputs. Accurately modeling the simultaneous time-series of pollutant concentrations and an individual’s breathing rate and appropriately reflecting the personal attributes of individuals and the demographics of a population residing in a specific study area is my overall goal.
Q. And finally, what’s one thing your students may not know about you? Any fun interests or hobbies?
A. I have served as an assistant coach for my son’s teams for several years. I have probably learned more from them about hockey than I have taught them, though it has given me more time to share my quirky life experiences with them in a somewhat different life environment. I have also learned more about myself and my personal relationships via the interactions with them and their teammates.