PKAL Faculty for the 21st Century
What works: Observations from the field
Faculty for the 21st Century members reflect on their experience in making a difference for their students and for the communities of which they are a part.
What brought you to an interest in “advancing the frontiers of education” and to connecting your research to that work?
I have always been drawn to new technology and to teaching. My passion is to blend the two. Early on, I realized I could blend these two rather than keeping them separate. Just before getting tenure, I realized that genomics is my field, and that the next big wave in my field, and that I could be a leader in bringing genomics to the undergraduate curriculum. From this leading, I decided to develop a course in genomics which eventually turned into our textbook (Discovering Genomics, Proteomics, and Bioinformatics; www.bio.davidson.edu/genomics) which is now in its second edition.
In addition, I collaborated with a group of eager colleagues from across the country and we launched the Genome Consortium for Active Teaching (GCAT; www.bio.davidson.edu/GCAT). GCAT has grown over its seven years, now including about 160 faculty from approximately 130 campuses. The most important things is that over 5,000 undergraduates have used DNA microarrays through GCAT. Now GCAT is branching out into sequencing of genomes (http://www.bio.davidson.edu/projects/GCAT/Seq/Seq.html) and synthetic biology (http://www.bio.davidson.edu/projects/GCAT/Synthetic/synthetic.html).
In addition, I have created a number of electronic resources, such as short animations (http://www.bio.davidson.edu/courses/genomics/chip/chip.html) and long animations(http://gcat.davidson.edu/Pirelli/index.htm) to help students learn about microarrays. From this, my lab has developed a wet-lab microarray simulation that is appropriate for high school students, as well as for introductory biology students in college (http://www.bio.davidson.edu/projects/GCAT/HSChips/HSchips.html ). Collaborating with Dr. Laurie Heyer of the Mathematic Department at Davidson, we have created free software for microarray data analysis (www.bio.davidson.edu/MAGIC). Furthermore, we have created a spot synthesizer that allows teachers to test their students ability to analyze microarray data (http://www.bio.davidson.edu/projects/GCAT/Spot_synthesizer/Spot_synthesizer.html).
What brought me here was the fun and the excitement. What could be more fun and stimulating that learning genomics with bright undergraduates?
Plus, they pay me to do this!
What connections have been of most value in doing this?
The most valuable connections have been with my students, my closest collaborator Laurie Heyer, colleagues and collaborators in GCAT, and my administration who have encouraged me to continue to push the edges of research and pedagogy. Having a mathematician as an academic partner has changed my range and thinking. Laurie is a gifted teacher and investigator and her insights have been priceless. My students have been willing to take risks with me as we venture into new areas - learning every step of the way.