Tuesday, April 22, 2014

URSP Student Alexandra Johnson Improves the Cell Biology Laboratory Manual

I had a very unique high school experience because I went to a Governor’s School where I was exposed to in-depth research and rigorous laboratory experiences. After I came to Mason, my interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education began to develop through teaching work that I engaged in. One day when I was talking to my mentor, Dr. Schwebach, we were on the topic of how to improve learning within the biology program. I mentioned how I had noticed some areas for improvement in the cell biology laboratory manual. We ran with this idea all the way to the course coordinator, Dr. Madden, who agreed to let me revise it, becoming my second mentor. Some off-hand brainstorming and my interest in STEM education quickly turned into an OSCAR project!

In the future, I plan on becoming a high school biology teacher. Beyond classroom instruction, my goal is to bring more authentic scientific laboratory experiences into public education at this level; this will expose students to what the “real world” of being a scientist is like. My work in education will involve developing labs that include inquiry and critical thinking. This project involves these steps, so this is wonderful preparation for my life as a teacher.

On a weekly basis, I spend a lot of time communicating with my mentors on experiment and question design. What I do each week has evolved a lot over the semester through different stages of my project. Mostly, I spend my time writing up surveys to ask cell biology students, editing the worksheets in the manual further, and researching inquiry labs that have been done successfully.

This week I discovered the intricacies of working with a publisher. There is a lot of work, and thus a lot of obstacles, that come with putting together a large document such as this one. We are muddling through the adjustments so that everything will come together. It is a very gratifying feeling to see something you have poured so much energy into come into existence.