In fall 2019, José Guzmán was appointed as a lecturer at SAFS, where he had been an instructor from 2015 to 2019. José has been recognized for his teaching excellence, receiving both the UW Distinguished Teaching Award and the College of the Environment Outstanding Teaching Award in 2019. A native of Spain, José earned his BS, MS, and PhD degrees in Marine Sciences at the University of Cádiz. Before coming to SAFS, José was a postdoctoral fellow at the Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NOAA Fisheries.
JG: Like for many in my generation who didn’t live near the coast, the answer is Jacques Cousteau and the Calypso! I remember those long summers in my home city, Cordoba, Spain, when I was kid. At 4 pm and 115º F, the only thing we were allowed to do was either take a nap or watch TV—and I have always been a bad sleeper. They used to play The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau documentary series on public television on repeat, and I remember becoming mesmerized and thinking, “I so wanna do that!” With time, I moved to Cadiz to pursue an undergrad degree in Marine Sciences, followed by a master’s and PhD. Then, in 2011, I moved to Seattle for a postdoc in Penny Swanson’s lab at the Northwest Fishery Science Center-NOAA. The rest is history. Cheers Jacques!
DD: What are your current research interests?
JG: I am interested in the mechanisms that regulate the onset and progression of sexual development in fishes and how this knowledge can be used by the fishing and aquaculture industries to produce sustainable seafood. In my research, I integrate in vivo and in vitro models, combined with genomics, proteomics, and quantitative steroid biochemical analyses to study the interactions of factors along the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axis at critical stages of the fishes’ reproductive life history. Also, after I started at UW, I became passionate about effective teaching and the science behind it. I evaluate pedagogical interventions that contribute to academic achievement in non-traditional students—who constitute a large proportion of the student body at SAFS and UW.
DD: Why SAFS?
JG: In 2015, I was finishing my postdoc at NOAA and thinking about my next career move, when I realized that I did not have any experience teaching— I had done both my PhD and postdoc in purely research institutions. By that time, a colleague told me that SAFS was looking for an instructor to help develop courses for the Marine Biology major. My plan was to stay at SAFS for maybe a couple of years, finish a bunch of papers that I had pending from my postdoc, get some experience teaching, and go back to Europe where I would continue my research career. Once I started teaching at SAFS and realized the lifelong impact that we have on our students, I knew I had found my niche. Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth—right?
DD: How has your teaching style influenced your classroom and students?
JG: Well, my students should answer this one! I decidedly try to create a “low-risk” environment in my classroom, where everyone is welcome to talk, to ask, and…to fail! Sessions are sequences of questions designed to challenge students to think, to make connections between concepts and draw their own conclusions, rather than to regurgitate facts. All this work is made by talking with partners in a small group, or with the entire class, and very importantly, giving and receiving continuous feedback. At the start of each course, some students may feel uneasy, almost cautious with this mode. However, a few days in, and everyone starts talking comfortably, taking risks, and thinking creatively, and that is when magic happens!
DD: What could we learn about you that isn’t in your CV?
JG: I am a pretty laid-back guy with a dry sense of humor, who probably swears too much. When I am not teaching or in my office figuring out ways to challenge my students, I am exploring the Pacific Northwest one way or another with my husband Nico, my fierce yorky Paco, and an amazing crew of friends. If it’s winter, you can find me skiing; if summer, running, biking, swimming…or just chilling in any body of water.