By Wendy Sarubbi | April 15, 2011 1:43 pm

Aaron Muth, a Ph.D. candidate working with UCF College of Medicine Professor Otto Phanstiel, recently won two teaching awards from the university. Aaron received the College of Sciences $250 award and the university’s $1,500 award that recognize the outstanding instructional skills of graduate teaching assistants.

“To receive both awards is quite an accomplishment,” Dr. Phanstiel said of his teaching assistant. “Aaron is an incredibly promising student with established expertise in the lab and the classroom.”

Aaron actually taught in two different UCF departments – Biology and Chemistry. He also conducts research with Dr. Phanstiel on polyamines – molecules that are important growth factors for living cells. Certain cancer cells use their polyamine transporters to feed off the polyamines of neighboring cells to grow, multiply and spread. This polyamine transport activity is especially prevalent in colon and pancreatic cancers. Dr. Phanstiel’s team is looking at using the polyamines’ active transport system to selectively deliver toxic drugs to cancer cells.

Aaron said he has been fascinated with science since he took Chemistry in high school. “I love trying to understand why things are the way they are,” he said.

His favorite part about teaching is interacting with students and finding ways to make science relevant, interesting and learnable to a variety of people with a variety of learning styles. “The teaching awards are a great honor,” he said. “It’s nice to know I’ve been doing a good job in the classroom.” Not to mention the lab. Recently, Aaron helped Dr. Phanstiel present cancer-fighting research at a regional meeting of the American Chemical Society, the leading chemistry organization in America.

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