We embrace the directive to broaden the impacts of our research on society. Through mentoring and outreach activities, we seek to increase scientific literacy and the participation of under-represented minorities in STEM fields.
We regularly advise undergraduate students on projects related to our research. These students participate in lab meetings and gain experience in designing experiments and collecting and analyzing data. We strive to promote in them a sense of responsibility or ownership of their project. Students who are interested in joining the lab are encouraged to contact me.
During winter quarter 2017, I taught a 5-week course for high school students entitled "Our Wormy World" through the on-campus SST program. Students learned about the role of parasites in hosts, populations, communities, and ecosystems, and on the final week, they dissected a fish! Students also developed proficiency with dissecting and compound microscopes. A big thank you to Armand and the TA's for letting us commandeer the Parasitology lab classroom on Saturdays.
In partnership with the Earthwatch Institute, the Durfee Foundation, and my collaborators Dr. Jeffrey Wozniak of Sam Houston State University and Dr. Liz Smith of the International Crane Foundation, during three subsequent summers, I co-led two-week field research expeditions at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in south central TX. Each expedition was attended by 10 exceptional high school students from LA County, CA, and they experienced an eye-opening glimpse of life as a research scientist.
Student feedback: “The research…opened my eyes to the world of possibilities in…science.” "This is my dream job." “Never a dull moment.” “The most positive impact that this experience had on me was that science is not necessarily something to be afraid of. At school, science is taught through the lens of books, exams and lectures. Any ‘hands-on’ activity or lab…at school…did not seem like 'real' science. However, my experience in Texas showed me…what science is. I learned that science is not necessarily a bunch of vocabulary or equations. Real science begins with imagination and ingenuity and real science, now, is fun to me.”
We had so much fun that we can't wait for next year's trip! Know an LA County high school student who wants to do something extraordinary next summer? Encourage them to apply for a fully-funded Earthwatch Ignite fellowship! This summer marks the 25th anniversary of this incredible program.
During graduate school I partnered with OSU Precollege Programs, an organization that encouraged college enrollment by planning campus visits for groups of middle and high school students from underrepresented backgrounds. These visits often included a hands-on activity in which students learned about research being conducted at OSU, interacted with scientists, and had an opportunity to ask questions about college and their career goals. I designed several teachable units related to my research interests and led countless groups of visiting middle and high school students through these activities. Topics of these activities included food webs, conservation biology, natural selection, and amphibian population declines. I also co-created an activity that models disease dynamics of the flu virus in a human population.
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