"Not explaining science seems to me perverse. When you're in love, you want to tell the world."
Teaching Philosophy: As an educator, I see my role as simply a facilitator of thought provoking knowledge-based information (aka FACTS) that challenges students' beliefs and/or perceptions. Through this provocation, students will be actively engaged in their own learning, promoting critical thinking.
Learning Environment: Promotion of an active learning environment is essential to maintaining engaged students that are invested in their own learning. With today's current students incorporating technology into the classroom, from clicker questions embedded into lectures to live Tweeting within class to ask questions, is a key mechanism to foster this active learning environment. But, as with everything in science, we must collect information throughout the teaching process to support the claim that this learning environment is effective. This requires frequent assessments of students' knowledge to be used to back fill lesson design and inform instruction techniques. Finding the area where technology can help convey the core concepts through effective pedagogical approaches is the "sweet spot" for fostering an effective learning environment.
Summer 2015 - Algal Biology Teaching Assistant - I had a highly unique opportunity to TA an Algal Biology field course at KBS this past summer. Under the guidance of Dr. Rex Lowe and Dr. Elena Litchman, I helped expose students to the ecology and immense taxonomy of freshwater microalgae. Students sampled over ten different aquatic environments, capturing vastly different habitats, in order to collect over 100 different unique genera of algae. Students were also exposed to how environment shapes composition within these different habitats, encouraging them to think about temperature, pH, light exposure and nutrient levels as driving factors for community composition.
Fall 2012-Spring 2014 NSF KBS GK-12 Fellow - I spent two years working with a large network of mid-Michgan school districts with over 100 participating STEM K-12 educators. Our GK-12 program was focused on advancing students' ecological and energy literacy all while developing graduate students science communication skills. I worked with the 8th Grade Earth Science students, as well as with the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center (KAMSC) AP Biology and AP Environmental Science course. Within these classrooms I focused on developing lab activities and interactive activities that incorporated current scientific findings while satisfying curriculum standards. This has led to a number of lessons that can be accessed through the links below.
Summer of 2015 REU Jacob Pino and URA Scott Schultz - Aiming for a highly productive summer, I chose to mentor two extremely ambitious and talented students for the summer. Jacob Pino (New Mexico State University) was an REU (NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates) student and Scott Schultz (Michigan State University) was a URA (MSU Undergraduate Research Assistant). Both students decided to take on individual projects to fully complete throughout the summer, from experimental design, experimentation, data collection, analysis and data presentation. We tackled two large projects: one investigating how fluctuating light levels impact the growth and lipid production of monocultures and their constituent polycultures, the other assessed the feasibility of coupling algal biofuel generation with brewery wastewater remediation. The light experiment (There is no “I” in Algae: Investigating the power of diversity for algal biofuel production in a variable environment - Schultz et al.) has showed that there are benefits that can arise from promoting diversity such as higher productivity and stability even when experiencing a variable environment. Our brewery wastewater project (Well-Oiled Green Cleaning Machines: Harnessing the synergy of algal biofuel production and brewery wastewater remediation - Pino et al.) illustrated that photosynthetic microalgae can thrive, be stunted, or completely exterminated in the high nutrient, high opacity wastewater. To those alga that thrive though, brewery wastewater leads to explosive growth while nutrient uptake rates are increased, leading to high levels of phytoremediation. Jake had spent some time working in an onion genetics lab at NMSU, but for both he and Scott, this was their first true opportunity to develop and execute a research project. They were fantastic this summer, and collectively, we accomplished more together than we could have individually (just like our algae).
Summer of 2014 REU Student Farhana Haque - I had the unique experience and privilege to co-advise an undergraduate for the first time. Farhana Haque, from UT Austin, worked in the Litchman under a large project investigating the "eco-evolutionary response of algal cell-size under temperature stress." We worked closely on investigating how algal cell size changed (plastically) in different temperatures. We found that as temperatures increase, the general trend is that cell sizes shrink (with some exceptions). It was Farhana's first ecological research experience and my first opportunity to act as "advisor." The experience was a great deal of fun, and we got a lot accomplished in that brief 2-month period. Stay tuned for a paper (or two) to come from our work together, but for now, check out our BEACON blog post!