HMX Moderator Profile
Giulia Notarangelo says she would’ve appreciated being able to take HMX courses prior to starting her PhD program in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences program at Harvard Medical School. She says the experience of moderating the courses has helped her refresh her own knowledge, as well as changed her opinion on the value of online learning.
What was your background before entering your PhD program?
I studied biology at Mount Holyoke College. I started late because I wasn’t sure what I was going to do; I didn’t have much of a background in science, I just took what was required to major. Before coming to Harvard, I took two years off and did a post-bacc program, so I built on my missing knowledge in biology, taking a bunch of classes, and also did lab work. Right now I’m studying metabolism and immunology and the intersection between the two.
What has surprised you about your work as an HMX intern?
I’d never taken an online course before; I think I had a little bit of a prejudice against online courses, and thought maybe they were not as rigorous. But after moderating these classes, my opinion has completely changed. I feel like there are things you can get from an online course that you could never get by going to class every day in a physical space. Especially the way HMX courses are taught, you have so much variety – readings, lectures, animations, patient-doctor interactions – that you would not get if you just went to lecture every day. So I think my perception of online courses has totally changed, and I can see how they can benefit students.
Also, there is a lot of engagement with the courses which I did not anticipate; being an online course, you do not have a participation grade, but students are still very engaged and want to learn, so we get a lot of questions every day. Some questions are very specific – I didn’t understand this question or this part of the lecture – and a lot of them seem like applied questions. The students love to bring scenarios that they’re familiar with and ask for your opinion on how you would apply this material to this scenario.
What advice do you have for participants in HMX courses?
I think definitely take advantage of the discussion forum. Don’t be afraid to ask questions; you can ask questions anonymously, if you don’t feel comfortable giving your name out. We answer all the questions, no questions are not answered. It’s so great to hear back from the students how much they appreciate our help; it makes us feel good.
In terms of the material, the courses are very in-depth, they cover most of the basics if not all, and they are fast-paced, so I would say keep up with the material at your own pace, but keep up with it. Go back to your notes, you can access all of the lectures throughout the entire course, so you can always go back and review the material. I think in an online course you really need self-discipline. Once a new lecture is out, tell yourself you have one week to look through the material, build your own schedule so you can go through all the material, not wait until the final and then have the entire course to go through.
What kind of value do you think HMX courses provide?
Personally, working on these fundamental courses has helped me refresh my own knowledge, because I feel like the longer you are in your career path, the more detail-oriented you become; you focus more on the smaller things and can forget the big picture. So it’s helped me also, moderating the courses and reviewing the material.
I wish I had taken some of these classes also before coming to Harvard, for personal knowledge, but also I think they would help me be prepared for some of the classes that are taught here. The level that these classes are taught are very comparable even to what I’m currently taking as a graduate student. Anyone who’s thinking about med school or a PhD, I think it covers so many fundamentals so it will be helpful. Also, I think they’re very relevant in terms of the material; it’s always updated. You’re not just learning the basics that were known 50 years ago, but also the most current treatments and therapies that are being developed.