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Education / Graduate Education / News / Sarah Latchney, PhD: Teaching to Learn


Sarah Latchney, PhD: Teaching to Learn

Sarah Latchney, Ph.D., is right where she had hoped to be: teaching science at a small, public, liberal arts college.

In the summer of 2019, she was hired as faculty at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. As an assistant professor of Biology and Neuroscience, she predominately teaches introductory-level biology for all incoming Biology and Neuroscience students as well as several introductory and advanced courses in the Neurosciences.

Latchney says she caught the teaching bug after designing and teaching a 200-level undergraduate course in toxicology as part of her training in the Rochester Postdoc Partnership (RPP) program. 

“It was a course that I developed from scratch on my own,” Latchney recalls. “Through that experience, I learned what it truly means to teach at the college level – to be the sole instructor of record and everything that goes into designing a course, implementing it, and interacting with students. It was a lot of work but also lots of fun.”

This type of teaching opportunity is exactly why Latchney chose to be a part of the RPP, which is the only postdoctoral training program dedicated to research and academic career training of Deaf scientists in the U.S. The RPP gave her the flexibility to continue her research while also carving out time to seriously consider a career in teaching.

“It was very valuable to be able to develop career building skills outside of the lab,” she said. “That was something I was not able to do back when I was a graduate student or during my first postdoc.”

Latchney completed a PhD in toxicology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, studying how natural and man-made chemicals impact the brain’s ability to grow new neurons. She quickly followed that up with a traditional postdoc at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

After that postdoc ended, she began exploring career opportunities beyond the lab on her own before landing back in her hometown with a less-traditional postdoc in the RPP. And she’s grateful that the RPP isn’t a traditional postdoc program. Not only did it give her the flexibility to explore career paths and flex muscles outside the lab, it gave her the sense of community she’d been missing.

“To be surrounded by scientists that are like you and to be in a supportive academic environment where your colleagues have an understanding of what you needed in order to be successful is invaluable,” said Latchney.

The Rochester Postdoc Partnership program provides highly trained biomedical scientists who are Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing (D/HH) with the knowledge and skills to pursue research and teaching careers in academia. The program, managed jointly by the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, is funded by an Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Award (K12 GM106997) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences.