Shepler Draws from Experience to Guide Students
When a distraught student who is having second thoughts about majoring in chemistry comes to Carrie Shepler, she’s able to provide him with meaningful advice — because she’s been there herself.
“I had a plan and ended up no where close to following it,” said Shepler, who is director of freshman chemistry. “But this change of plans has helped me to better relate to many of the students that I’ve worked with.”
Before her self-described “mid-college crisis,” Shepler wanted to become a nuclear medical technician, a job she’d learned about after her father had a heart attack and had to undergo regular stress tests to check for blocked arteries.
The technician was the one responsible for administering the radioactive dye that was injected into her father for the tests; Shepler was fascinated with the process.
But after her first year of graduate school, Shepler had become more interested in teaching (after working as a teaching assistant), and she realized she wasn’t interested in doing lab research for the rest of her life.
Years later, as a teacher and academic advisor, Shepler has found her “dream job.”
“My mentors listened to me when I wasn’t sure of where to go next,” she said. “And I’m thankful that my job allows me to do the same for students who are in the position that I was in.”
Read on to learn more about Shepler and her time at Georgia Tech.
How did you end up at Georgia Tech?
About four years ago, I was working as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Georgia, teaching and doing research in chemistry education, when I was invited to interview for a position as chemistry and biochemistry undergraduate program coordinator at Tech. I didn’t think I would be offered the job, and I didn’t think I’d take it if I was because there wasn’t enough teaching involved. But after being offered the job, my mom convinced me that what I loved most was interacting with students — which was a huge part of this job. So I accepted and eventually moved to my current position, which allows me to focus more on teaching. I’ve been in my dream job ever since.
What does your job entail?
I teach Tech’s freshman chemistry courses each semester, but really I only spend about 10 percent of my time in the classroom. A lot of my days are spent in office hours, advising, writing recommendation letters and taking care of the logistics to ensure that everything goes smoothly for other instructors teaching this course.
What have you learned from your students?
Students often remind me to follow my own advice. For example, sometimes it takes me telling a student to stop worrying about sweating the small stuff to remind myself that I need to do the same.
What is the one piece of technology you can’t live without?
My laptop — it goes everywhere with me.
Which do you prefer: Facebook, Twitter or a world without all of this social media stuff?
A world without it. I use email so frequently in my professional life that I don’t want to bother with social media in my personal time.
Where is your favorite spot on campus?
I like the rooftop garden on top of the Clough Building, and it’s convenient because my office is in the building.
What was the biggest risk you’ve ever taken, and did it pay off?
Taking the job here at Tech, since I wasn’t sure if it was right for me. But it certainly did pay off!
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
President Obama, because I’d love to gain a better understanding of the pressures of his job.
If you were stranded on an island, what is the one book you would want with you?
“To Kill a Mockingbird” (by Harper Lee), because it’s my all-time favorite book.
Tell us something about yourself that others might not know.
I met my husband at nuclear chemistry summer school in college, which sounds like such a geeky way to meet your significant other.