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Leslie Berntsen

Ph.D. Candidate, Science Educator, Intersectional Feminist

Leslie Berntsen is a Brain & Cognitive Science Ph.D. candidate, teaching fellow, and student activist at the University of Southern California. Her research interests include the biological and social bases of empathy and compassion, and she strives to cultivate these virtues in her students through a social justice-inspired approach to science education. Once named "Most Likely to Color-Code Her Plans for Grassroots Resistance," Leslie's primary goal as an instructor is to help students apply their newfound knowledge of the psychological and brain sciences to understand real-world injustices and combat them using low-effort, high-impact strategies. As the chair of the Teaching Assistant Fellows at USC's Center for Excellence in Teaching, she shares this approach by developing and delivering training and enrichment programming for fellow graduate student instructors at USC. Leslie has also moderated discussions, presented teaching demonstrations, and delivered lectures at the the Annual Conference on Teaching, the National Institute on the Teaching of Psychology, the National Sexual Assault Conference, and the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. During her time at USC, she has also lent her scientific training to a number of advocacy efforts, including co-developing USC's first peer outreach/education program focused on sexual and gender-based violence and lobbying on Capitol Hill in favor of paid medical and family leave for all American employees. In 2016, Leslie received the Wilbert J. McKeachie Teaching Excellence Award from Division 2 of the American Psychological Association. As a result, "the day she figured out how to insert an animated reaction GIF into her lecture slides" is now the second-brightest moment of her teaching career.