Every Scientist is a teacher… or should be! For a long time I wasn’t sure whether I should focus on teaching or research. As an undergraduate I was lucky enough to get opportunities in both areas, and I tried my hand in a lecture only position right after earning my degree. And as much as I loved it, it got easy and I realized that made it took out some of the excitement and maybe the passion. I realized that when active in both teaching a research I was better at both. Teaching helps me refreshed in the basic principles and keeps me focused on how my work fits into the grand story. Research keeps me constantly engaged in the excitement of learning new things, and how we figure things out. In this day and age with so much being science being sold as truth, there is nothing more critical that being able to evaluate, what science can actually tell us, what does uncertainty really mean and how does knowing this actually affect my life (or the life of my great grandchildren). Science teaching has become more essential. With this, I hope comes a certain amount of trust. As a scientist and teacher, I quickly came to realize that it is impossible to know everything and or even be well versed in every type of science. One of the most valuable things I learned in graduate school, is who to ask questions. Who are the people I trust, when I don’t know the answer to something. The same way we ask our one doctor friend if this ache is something I should worry about. I now have a scientist I know, who doesn’t have an agenda, that I can ask my questions about climate change, or genetically modified foods and or any of the various societal issues where we are fed just as much pseudoscience as science. Part of the solution is knowing what we don’t know, how to learn about what we don’t know, and who to trust if when it comes down to the things we are not going to know well enough…

The courses I currently teach:

Biol4072 , Microbiomes: From the microbes within us to a grander view of life (Lecture and Lab)

Our view of the microbial world and the role it plays in human health, animal behavior, and environmental function and quality are rapidly expanding. This has been driven in part by the expansion of sequencing techniques that have exposed the tremendous diversity present in the microbial world, but also the application of these techniques were previously never investigated. The study of the human microbiome alone has shed light on the role microbes play on our development, our immune systems, the progression of disease and even the potential roles microbes may play in our behavior. This course will focus on the science behind microbiome analysis, covering the basics of biological sequences analysis, microbial community analysis and different statistical community comparison approaches. We will use this to evaluate the current state of knowledge in microbiomes covering topics from: the integral role microbes play in development, the concept of commensal and opportunistic pathogens (good microbes gone bad), and concepts in symbiosis all the away to enslaving microorganism (and the origin of the Eukaryotic cell). Students will be exposed to topics in environmental microbiology and microbial ecology and will develop foundational knowledge of the evaluation of microbiome datasets.

LAB: This course will focus on the science behind microbiome analysis, covering the basics of biological sequences analysis, microbial community analysis and different statistical community comparison approaches. Students will also gain experience in the laboratory, computation and statistical techniques associated microbiome analysis, and will apply these techniques to a group independent microbiome analysis project.

Biol4011, Microbiology(Lecture and Lab)

This is an integrative, organismal course that examines the biology of microorganisms, with an emphasis on Bacteria, Archaea, and Viruses. There will be a focus on the unique attributes of microorganisms compared with Eukaryotic cell biology (the main pre-requisite for this course). Topics range from the basic structure and biochemistry of microorganisms to physiology, metabolism, genetics, evolution, ecology, and the impacts (both good and bad) of microbes on health and disease. Microorganisms are the dominant (in terms of mass) organisms on our plant and provide essential ecosystem functions. They play critical roles in biogeochemical cycles and the recycling of essential nutrients and elements for life. Their activities, collectively, have huge impacts on climate, plant productivity, soil structure and function, and a wide range of industrial processes critical to human life (i.e., wastewater treatment). They also play essential roles in our health, development, and the functioning of our immune systems. A small fraction of microbes are also important pathogens. Understanding the importance of balancing the diversity and health of beneficial microbes, while preventing disease from pathogenic microbes is an important goal of this class. We endeavor to give students the tools to evaluate the science of microbiology such that they can promote practices by society that support a balanced view of beneficial and harmful microbes.

LAB: Microbiology Laboratory is a practical course that emphasizes the visualization, culturing and identification of non-pathogenic bacteria. Major topics include basic microscopy, aseptic technique, measurement and control of microbial growth, microbial genetics, and physiology. The microbiology lab places students into a contextual environment where they can apply the knowledge and skills gained in this course and reflect on its relevance for entering the scientific and/or clinical workforce. Will be converted to a course based undergraduate research experience!

Biol8003, Molecular and Cellular Biology

This Graduate Foundation course explores the application of molecular tools to answer a broad range of biological questions. This course is designed for graduate students in Biological sciences and related programs, to expose students to the molecular underpinnings of life’s processes. Topics will include: Bioenergetics; DNA, RNA and protein structure and function; analysis of genome structure; strategies for analysis of gene function, regulation, and expression; DNA sequencing techniques and strategies; DNA modification; techniques for DNA modification, transgenic organisms, and analysis of genetic variation; organelle structure and function; Homeostasis; and the origin of life. A major focus of this course is the analysis of current and original research papers in molecular biology.