Graduate Teaching Award: Travis Peters

Travis Peters, a doctoral student in the Department of Computer Science, was selected as one of this year’s recipients of the Graduate Student Teaching Award.

Peters will be starting his second year as a PhD student this fall. While at Dartmouth, he has had the opportunity to work with Professor David Kotz on two different projects. This past winter, Peters began working on the development of a mobile health intervention application (or “app”) and wearable sensor for the Center for Technology and Behavioral Health (CTBH). The purpose of this invention is ultimately to aid people battling smoking addiction and cigarette cravings. The pilot study to test this app and sensor is slated to begin over the summer.

Peters has also been involved with a project known as “Amulet.” Amulet is a wearable mobile health technology that can also be described as “computational jewelry.” “It is a mobile health device that is meant to operate independent of a smartphone,” according to Peters. Unlike many smart watches currently on the market, “Amulet is a secure platform; it can run third-party applications (so anybody can develop for it), and the Amulet team is working to design it in such a way that it is ultra low power, enabling it to run for days or even weeks at a time between charges,” says Peters. There could be many potential uses for this technology in healthcare. This technology may eventually be used to gather readings from a patient’s worn sensors in order to identify emergency situations (i.e., low blood sugar, fall detection, etc.). Amulet could then provide first responders with vital information when they arrive on the scene. The project is still in development, but preliminary tests have shown promise.

This past year, Peters has also had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant (TA) for three different professors’ undergraduate classes. When asked what he likes most about TAing, Peters says it is definitely the times when he gets to interact with students. He advises: “If you are interested in teaching, start to think about what makes learning effective and/or meaningful: What helps you learn? What works and what doesn’t? Then, just look for an opportunity to apply that.” When asked how to be an effective TA, Peters reflected on how he approached the role himself: “When I work with students, I try not to make assumptions about where they are in their level of understanding. Some students come into an introductory class with crazy experience and are way ahead of where I was at that point, and some students come in and they know nothing and feel terrified to be in a class where other people sound like they know everything.” Peters emphasizes the importance of making people feel at ease by trying to “meet students where they are at” and never making assumptions about their level of understanding.

Looking farther down the road, after he has earned his doctorate, Peters hopes to continue teaching by pursuing a career in academia one day. “Ideally,” he says, “I’d like to end up somewhere similar to Dartmouth, where interesting research happens and where teaching is a priority.” In the meantime, he will be getting even more practice by teaching his very own course to Dartmouth undergraduates next winter: COSC 10 – Problem Solving via Object-Oriented Programming.

Outside of his research and work as a TA, Peters has also served this past year as a department representative on the Graduate Student Council. In his free time, he also enjoys running. Peters met his wife, Mary, when both participated in track and cross-country as undergraduates at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington. Mary is now the head distance track coach at Hanover High School, and also works at the Child Care Center in Norwich. This summer, the Peters are looking forward to participating in the Western NH Trail Running Series, which includes various running races that take place throughout the Upper Valley. Peters also attends Christ Redeemer Church (CRC) in Hanover. And, he is learning to play the guitar.

To read more about Peters, check out a profile that was written about him upon first starting out here at Dartmouth last fall. The Graduate Forum wishes to congratulate Peters on his award!

by Lisa Jackson