Selected Student Course Evaluations

Chris Payne is hands down the best lab instructor I’ve had at Carolina. I really appreciate his preparedness and passion for teaching the material. One would think that after teaching the same course for years, Chris would go about teaching in a mundane manner but it is truly the opposite. Chris’ energy is contagious and we really appreciate how he goes above and beyond to help us master the material. His thoroughness in class saves us time preparing outside of class. I have friends in other lab sections who envy the learning experience that I’ve received from being Chris’ student. I can honestly say that I would not have performed as well if I were in another lab section. Chris you’re amazing, keep up the great work!

The quality of the TA determines whether labs (bio, chem, etc.) are effective at enhancing learning or just extra work that doesn’t really help complete understanding of the subject. Chris did an outstanding job at connecting lab to lecture and contextualizing material that can otherwise feel like pointless memorization. I was confident is his teaching capabilities and appreciated that he encouraged us to stay as long as possible .

Chris really loves teaching and the material which makes the class so much smoother. He tries to help students succeed in any way he can and doesn’t sugarcoat the rigor of the course. Give this guy a teaching job somewhere! He is really the best TA/grad student I’ve had at UNC and deserves recognition.

He was very patient, and eager to help us learn and understand. He gives multiple examples of how to remember parts of the body, and if you were to tell him they don’t work, he’d provide a brand new example. I also appreciate how he didn’t allow himself to become a crutch either. He would explain parts of the lab manual less and less at the beginning of class in the hopes that we were beginning to look at the material independently, but I also never felt afraid to ask for help either.

Chris is an absolutely fantastic TA. He really cares about the material, but more importantly, he cares about students learning the material. He provides tons of helpful study tips and tries to change the way that students approach learning in a way that is applicable to not only lab, but all classes. He is very enthusiastic, very easy to talk to, and will quiz you until the end of lab just to help you thoroughly understand the material. He always asks a question if you ask him a question, but it really helps you to think about the material.

Teaching Philosophy

The defining goals of my teaching philosophy are:

  • Highlight critical thinking + importance of  quantitative, writing & communication skills
  • Emphasize need to transfer these abilities to new experiences
  • Provide enthusiastic instruction and tangible experiences to foster skill development.

I demonstrate enthusiasm for the material and maintain personable interactions with students to provide them with contextualized learning examples and mentorship.

  • As a result, students leave my class with both an excited curiosity about class material and a suite of learned skills to prepare them for successful STEM careers.

Critical Thinking & Skill Development:

  • Teaching is a means to advance students’ skillsets, so I provide students experiences to develop transferable skills.
  • Central to my teaching approach is developing and practicing the application of critical thinking. Critical thinking involves assimilating new observations with prior knowledge in order to diagnose problems and identify solutions.
    • Critical thinking aids in skill transfer, and it allows students to develop stronger analytical arguments to contribute meaningfully to scientific discourse.
    • Ultimately, developing critical thinking skills prepares students to tackle self-learning initiatives.

Contextualized Teaching:

  • As an instructor, I prefer small class sizes so that I can get to know my students’ names, interests, aspirations and challenges. This type of classroom atmosphere allows me to tailor concept comprehension to individuals and use personalized examples.
    • Smaller class sizes also allow me to directly observe each student to ensure he or she is developing operative critical thinking and writing skills.
    • Using an enthusiastic and interactive approach to teaching small- to moderate-sized classes excites the students and leads to heightened curiosity about the material.

Integrate Research & Teaching:

In addition to engaging students in the enthusiastic and contextualized manner, I also attempt to inspire curiosity about science through immersive experiences.

  • Bringing students to real research sites provides hands-on engagement of active research.
  • Ecological field methods are easily adaptable to campus settings themselves.
    • Allows students to carry out their own on-campus research projects while learning the scientific method and gaining practice in developing analytical research questions.
  • My ‘real-time’ forest research and the innumerable ecological and environmental interactions that can be studied provides multiple opportunities for students to conduct research in my lab.
    • I have already mentored 20 students from six academic institutions in a research capacity, and I welcome and encourage continued undergraduate involvement in my research.
    • My experiences studying a myriad of organisms and systems also enable me to easily and willingly provide research mentorship for a diverse range of projects.

A major goal of mine is to prepare students for STEM careers.

  • Hands-on undergraduate experience via lab work and research projects is paramount for initiating successful scientific careers.
    • Students will gain experience in developing proficient critical thinking, writing and communication skills through assigned research projects.
    • Teach them to use current analytical and statistical methods and software in order to learn how to apply these methods to new situations.
    • As an active member in regional and national professional organizations, I would also encourage student participation in organization meetings to gain networking and communication experience.


  • My own background at both small and large academic institutions, state parks, county organizations and a nature reserve enables me to provide strong mentorship for students pursuing research and careers in a diverse range of settings.
  • I already have extensive experience mentoring students as they prepare for research, internships and graduate school, and I look forward to continuing this role as a professor.
  • I have already mentored 20 students from six academic institutions in a research capacity


I feel strongly that STEM students need to read, write and present scientific information in a clear and effective manner. As a result, my classes will contain analytical writing and presentation components.

  • Each student must demonstrate the ability to critically analyze arguments, synthesize readings and class material, develop well-supported arguments and communicate their findings clearly.
  • Effective science communication goes beyond writing skills, so I will also evaluate students based on their participation in oral discussions and effectiveness in presenting arguments.

Lab portions of my classes will be similarly designed and assessed, but I will place increased emphasis on the research process itself.

  • I’ll evaluate students in lower level courses on their competency in following proper methods and their ability to make appropriate conclusions from collected data.
  • I will additionally judge students in upper level courses on the originality and analytical nature of their research project questions.
  • By the end of a course, I expect my students to be better prepared to address new problems, think critically about the world around them, engage others effectively when sharing information and to have developed the work ethic and personal management skills necessary to be successful in and out of the classroom.