BIS2A Ireland Lecture 1 - Biology

BIS2A Ireland Lecture 1 - Biology

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Welcome to BIS2A in Ireland

Welcome to UC Davis Biological Sciences 2A, which will be taught over a five-week period at University College Cork, in the School of Biochemistry and Cell Biology. Students are introduced to the fundamental chemical, molecular, genetic, and cellular building blocks of life, biological mechanisms for the recruitment and transfer of matter and energy, basic principles of biological information flow and cellular decision making, and core concepts underlying the relationships between genetic information and phenotype.

It is important to realize that BIS2A is not a survey course in biology. Biology is an exciting, broad, and dynamic field. It is critical for students in biology or related fields to develop a strong conceptual foundation and to demonstrate their ability to use it in contexts that may be novel to them. Students in BIS2A will be asked to begin developing the ability to identify and articulate the key scientific and biological questions that are at the core of the course content. Students will be expected to learn and use correct technical vocabulary in their discussions of course content. Students will be expected to begin conceptualizing course content from a question-driven and problem-solving perspective.

Yes, BIS2A will require you to work hard, but we also hope that you will have fun discovering new aspects of biology and exploring the many unanswered questions concerning what it means to be alive.

The main course learning objectives include:

  • Apply principles of chemistry and bioenergetics in the context of biological systems to describe how cells acquire and transform matter and energy to build and fuel various life sustaining processes, including chemical transformations of elemental compounds, cellular replication, and cellular information processing.
  • Explain the relationship between genotype and key genetic processes that create phenotypic diversity.
  • Describe the processes regulating the management of cellular information; how information is stored, read, rearranged, replicated; how cells interact with their environment and how these processes can control cellular physiology.

Who should I ask when I have questions about the course?

  1. General information about the course: The syllabus provides most of this type of information. For the quickest answers to many of your questions, we highly recommend looking at the syllabus and see if you can answer the question yourself. If not, there are a number of great resources available to you.
    • Lecture material and the related reading assignments in Nota Bene: Dr. Dean is a great resource for questions about course related material. Find your instructor after class and go to their office hours whenever possible.
    • Discussion material and the related assignments in Nota Bene: Your discussion TA, Dr. Williams, is the best source of information about the discussion material present in your specific discussion section.
    • Technical Issues: We will be using a number of online resources in this class.
      • Some of the online resources are specific to UCC. For example, the BIS2A course website is in "Blackboard," the course management system at UCC. Dr. Dean and Dr. Williams can help you with most questions related to using Blackboard. If the technical issue is too complex, they can refer you to other resources on campus.
      • Some of the online resources are specific to BIS2A at UC Davis. The main one that you will be using is Nota Bene. Facciotti and Dr. Igo and Dr. Facciotti have made a number of resources to help you using this site. These resources can be found in a folder on the course website. Igo will be available to help you set up the first week of class and knows the best people to contact for more complex technical issues. She will also be available by email if you run into issues later in the course
  2. All course content related material: Dr. Talk to her after class or go to her office hours. More information will be provided the first day of class.

Some of your responsibilities

BIS2A is a team effort. Several professors are involved in developing the course content and assessment materials. There are also teaching assistants at UC Davis, who not only run the discussion sections, but also provide insights into which concepts students find the most difficult.

Please keep up with your responsibilities as a student. Do the assigned reading and start to learn new vocabulary before coming to class. Check out the pre-study guide and the learning objectives. Come to class prepared to engage - your instructor will assume that you have read the material before class and that the lecture will not be your first exposure to the content. After class, review your notes, the podcast, and the post-study guide. Seek out assistance immediately when you need it. If everyone in the class can conscientiously do these things, we’ll all have fun this quarter (even while working hard) and be a happy and smarter bunch at the end of the term!

Active learning in BIS2A

In every lecture, we will ask you to answer questions, either in a small group or individually. These questions serve several purposes:

Functions of in-class questions

  • Questions stimulate students to examine a topic from a different perspective, one that the instructor considers relevant to their learning.

  • Questions act as mini "self-tests" for students. If you are uncertain about what question is being asked or how to answer it, this is a good time to (a) ask the instructor for clarification and/or (b) take note to review this immediately after class with a TA, the instructor, classmates, or the internet. If the instructor took the time to ask you the question in class, this is a big clue that he/she thinks that both the question and the answer are important.

  • Some in-class questions will ask students to formulate questions themselves. This is typically an exercise that is designed to force the student to reflect on and try to articulate the point of the lesson. These are critical exercises that force you to think more deeply about a topic and to place it in the broader context of the course.

  • Some questions may ask the student to interpret data or to create a model (e.g., perhaps a picture) and to communicate what they see to the class. This exercise asks the student to practice explaining something out loud. This can be a great self-test and learning experience, both for the person answering and fellow students who should also be using the time to examine how they would have answered the question and how that compares with the feedback of the instructor.

  • Questions in the discussion that follows and the thought process involved in solving a problem or answering the questions are opportunities for the instructor to model expert behavior in an interactive way—sometimes it is equally important to understand HOW we arrive at an answer as it is to understand the answer.

Some questions are designed to stimulate thought and discussion rather than to elicit a discrete answer. If called on, you should not feel compelled to have one "right" answer!! Understanding this is very important. Once you realize that it is perfectly acceptable (and sometimes desirable) to not know all of the answers (if you did, what would be the point of coming to class?), it can take away a lot of the anxiety of getting called on. While it is okay to not know "the answer", it is nevertheless important for you to attempt to make a contribution to the discussion. Examples of other meaningful contributions might include: asking for clarification; associating the question with another class topic (trying to make connections); and expressing what you are comfortable with and what confuses you about the question. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know". That's perfectly okay and even expected sometimes. Be prepared for the instructor to follow up with a different question, however, that will try to either highlight something that you likely do know or to ask for your help with identifying a point of confusion.

Getting ready for lecture

To help you get ready for each lecture, we provide study guides that include instructions on how to prepare for class. You should do your best to complete the assigned reading and suggested "self-assessments" before coming to class. This will ensure that you are ready for discussions and that you can make the most of your time during class. We do not expect you to be an expert before lecture, but we do expect you to do the pre-reading and by doing so make yourself familiar with the required vocabulary and spend some time thinking about the concepts that will be discussed. We will build on that basic knowledge in lecture. If you do not have at least some of the basic building blocks before hand, you will make less efficient use of your time in class.

We cannot emphasize too strongly that YOU have the primary responsibility for learning the material in this (or any other) course. Although we are invested in your success, your instructors and TAs cannot magically implant knowledge. Like any other discipline that requires mastery (e.g., sports, music, dance, etc.), we can help guide you and critique your performance, but we can not replace the hours of practice necessary to become good at something. You would never expect to become a proficient pianist by going to lessons once or twice a week and never practicing. To most of us, it seems self-evident that you need practice to become good at something like music, art, or sports. It should not be surprising that the same rule applies with learning biology or any other academic subject.

We see ourselves as your coaches for this class; we want all of you to succeed. However, for this to happen, you have to take your practice seriously. This means coming to class prepared, participating in class, studying the material covered in class as soon as possible, identifying where you are uncertain and getting help to clarify those topics as soon as possible, and trying to make thoughtful contributions to the online discussions (not just the bare minimum required to "get the points").

Bottom line: you need to be active participants in your learning.

On the habits of highly successful BIS2A students

Over the years, your instructors have talked with many, many students to try and understand why some students are more successful than others. The picture is, as you might expect, complicated. However, there seem to be at least two habits that we can consistently associate with highly successful students and that we find are practiced much less frequently by students who struggle. These are:

  • Reviewing and studying material associated with a lecture THAT SAME DAY. This includes reviewing the lecture notes, vocabulary, and doing associated exercises. This ALSO includes making lists of concepts that still aren't clear and trying to have those questions cleared up before the following lecture.
  • Constant self testing. That is, most successful students have developed methods (there are many) for assessing their comfort level with their understanding of the course material and spending more time on areas they find MOST challenging.

The first point is relatively easy to understand. Don't procrastinate. Material builds up quickly, concepts are often layered and exams sneak up on you very fast in the quarter system. It is difficult to identify the holes in your understanding of a topic and fill them appropriately two days before the exam.

The second point about self testing is more subtle. Basically, students that are good at this skill have ways of asking themselves: "Do I really understand the point of this question and the reason for the answer?" This can happen in a number of ways. We suggested one above. Try to invent new exam style questions for a concept or skill. Another good way to test yourself is to work in groups and force yourself to explain a topic or question to another student, as if you were the instructor. This is often more difficult than it seems. While this exercise can be hard - particularly if you are not used to flexing these mental muscles - this type of introspection is important to develop for both your short and long term success and we encourage you to look inward and test yourself and your understanding often when you are studying.

The cumulative nature of BIS2A

By its very nature, the course material of BIS2A is cumulative and as a result, it is very easy to fall behind. We recognize this challenge and have designed the pre- and post-lecture study guides to help you prevent this. The guides include a variety of exercises, such as:

  • creating vocabulary study lists,
  • creating sketches of molecules and biological processes,
  • specific instructions to review lecture content,
  • sample multiple choice questions that are formatted in exam style,

and a variety of other study aides.

Some of the exercises may feel strange at first, but remember: they are designed by the same people who are designing the lectures and the exams. There is a reason why we are asking you to practice these exercises.

If the rationale for an exercise is not clear, don't just ignore it! Instead, ask yourself why the instructors might be asking you to do that specific exercise. The exercises are designed to help you master the learning goals specified in the study guide. Cross-check each exercise with those learning goals and see if you can draw a connection. If you still don't understand why you're being asked to do something in the study guide, ask a classmate, talk to a TA, or ask the instructor.

Once you're convinced that you have mastered the learning goals and have practiced/reinforced key concepts and skills using the study guides, we recommend that you reinforce your understanding by creating mock exam questions that are designed to test a fellow student's understanding of the learning goals.

And now, we proceed to discussing some useful tips, tricks, and tactics to tackle the course material!

Time Investment

To be successful in BIS2A, you need to make sure that you have sufficient time each week to devote to the class.

Units at UC Davis are assigned based on time spent in class and time requirements associated with out-of-class work. For one lecture unit, you are expected to attend one hour of lecture per week and to spend about two hours per week out-of-class studying the material associated with this lecture. In Summer Sessions at UC Davis and UC Cork, BIS2A has eight hours of lecture per week, so you are expected to spend at least sixteen additional hours per week studying the lecture material. BIS2A also has four hours of discussion per week. For these two discussion units, you are expected to attend two two-hour discussion section per week and to spend about eight hours per week outside of class studying the material associated with this discussion. So in total, you are expected to spend ~24 hours/week outside of class studying material presented in BIS2A.

What is the most productive way to use these ~24 hours/week? Material in BIS2A is cumulative and falling behind can have a major negative impact on your grade. Therefore, the key to being successful in BIS2A is to study the material every day. In Summer Session, this is critical because the class is moving very quickly and it is very easy to fall behind. “Studying” includes any time spent learning the vocabulary, doing the reading and Nota Bene assignments, preparing for class by doing the pre-lecture study guides, reviewing the slides and your notes after class, working in study groups, and completing the post-lecture study guides and homework assignments.

Basic Strategies

Research shows that the most successful students are those who take charge of their own learning and follow a simple but disciplined strategy.

  • Identify the important vocabulary words and key concepts presented in lecture. Be able to recall this information from your memory and find opportunities to use it outside of class: limiting your studying to reading the textbook does not constitute effective studying in this class. To be successful, you need to be able to use the information. Therefore, we have designed interactive, question-driven lectures that will ask you to practice using your knowledge in both the lecture and your discussion sections.
  • Recall information from your memory regularly: effective studying cannot be done the day before the exam. If you want to master a concept, you need to work on problems that ask you to apply that concept at regular intervals throughout each week. (When you attend lecture regularly, we will help you do this during class time!)
  • Apply your knowledge to different problem types and new situations: we will give you the chance to do this in class and outside of class with pre- and post-lecture study guide questions.

The following section explores study strategies for before, during, and after lecture:

Before Lecture

For each lecture, we have prepared a study guide designed to help you get the most out of the lecture.

  • One purpose of the study guide is to provide you with a targeted list of tasks that will help you prepare for lecture (think of it as a suggested "what to do" list). It will help you decide what to read, what vocabulary to review, and what skills/knowledge to review from earlier lectures. It will also help you get a perspective on what the instructor thinks is important for you to practice before coming to class.
  • Before coming to lecture, do the suggested assignments outlined in the study guide. The study guide contains the assigned reading (may include NB assignments and any supplemental reading), vocabulary lists, and most importantly, the Learning Goals for the lecture. The study guides are designed to help you prepare for lecture AND exams by helping you focus on what the instructor thinks is important for you to understand.
  • You are expected to do all of the assigned reading before coming to lecture. Take the commenting on these assignments in Nota Bene seriously. Read the whole document and comment on all parts - particularly the suggested discussion items. This is an opportunity to learn from and with your classmates and to use information you've learned from earlier lectures. Your thoughtful participation/commenting in the reading assignments will also help your instructors identify where you are having conceptual difficulty. If enough people appear to have similar questions in the readings, the instructor will see this as a sign to spend some extra time the following day in class clarifying the points of most frequent and/or serious confusion.

During Lecture

Class time will be spent discussing course topics. Your instructor will expect that you have completed the assigned reading before you come to class and that you have attempted the assignments outlined in the pre-lecture study guide.

Active Learning in Lecture

One of the goals of the lecture is to give you the opportunity to practice your problem-solving skills. To facilitate this, the instructor will pose a question and ask the class to discuss the question in small groups. Following the discussion, you might be asked to "vote" on answer choices to problems by holding up a folded multicolor piece of paper (the paper serves as a cheap iClicker substitute), by raising your hand, or with an iClicker - the mode will depend on your instructor. This technique gives the instructor instant feedback about how the whole class doing on a specific topic.

For some questions, you or a classmate may be called upon to summarize your group's discussion and to share this information with the class. When someone is called on in class to answer a question, don't take a mental break! This is a time for you to listen to your classmate, compare their ideas with what you might have shared had you been called upon. Did your classmate have a particularly insightful idea? Perhaps that will help you. Did they have problems answering the question? Did you have similar difficulties with the question? This is not "dead" time - stay mentally involved and active. Your classmates are an important source of information and one of the great reasons we all get together in the same place.

Most students get a little nervous about answering questions in class. This is understandable. However, it is important to remember that your thoughts, no matter how well or ill-formed, are valuable contributions to the classroom discussion. The important thing is to try! Whether you are responsible for speaking or whether you are actively listening, view the questions covered in class as a clue from your instructors about what they think is important. Ask yourself if you understand the key concepts associated with any question asked in lecture. If not, be sure to go over the question after lecture and if you still are having difficulties answering it, talk to an instructor or your TA in office hours. Isn't it better to realize in class that you don't understand a particular topic than on the exam itself?

The following section provides a list of resources and study materials for post-lecture studying.

After each lecture, you will be given access to the lecture slides and a podcast of the lecture.

The slides and podcast will allow you to review the lecture and to confirm the accuracy of your lecture notes. The lecture study guide will also provide you with problems and exercises that will help you practice and reinforce what you learned in lecture.

Post-lecture study guide

  • The study guide contains a variety of exercises that reinforce the mental muscles that are important for mastering the learning goals associated with the specific lecture. The problems/exercises on the study guide are a mix of short-answer questions, thought questions, and exercises that help you to build mental models that are important for success in the class (e.g. you may be prompted to sketch a picture of a particular molecule or process).
  • The study guides also contains some multiple choice questions designed to model the kind of thinking that will be expected on the exam. Many of these questions are taken from old midterm exams.

It is important that you complete the study guides as soon as you can after class. Use this document to identify areas where you are having difficulties and figure out the best way to master this material. Waiting to do these exercises until the last minute defeats much of their purpose.

Previous exam questions

Another way to test your understanding of the material is to take a practice exam that contains exam questions from previous quarters. Some of these questions appear in the post-lecture study guide. You may also be asked to work collaboratively on Nota Bene to answer previous exam questions.

However, please be advised that we have found that many students don't use these questions as effectively as they could. These are NOT meant to be exercises in memorization! Your instructor will not, in all likelihood, ask you the exact same question. Many students fall into a trap of using these questions as a last second study guide, cross-referencing with a key and mentally checking off that they understand a topic, because the answer choice "makes sense". Beware, if you are falling into this trap, you likely have a false sense of the depth of your real understanding.

How to use previous exam questions effectively

Ask yourself if there are any vocabulary terms that appear multiple times in the exam or any vocabulary words that you don't understand. Sometimes, just knowing the precise meaning of a term is enough to answer the question.

Ask yourself WHAT learning goal(s) are associated with each question and what skills do you need to have mastered in order to able to answer the question. Remember, some questions may require you to integrate learning goals.

Ask yourself HOW the instructor is testing whether or not you have mastered the learning goals you identified above. Figure out what you needed to know or be able to do to answer the question and how did the instructor ask you to demonstrate this.

Ask yourself how you might RECAST the question (changing some details or specifics) in a way that still tested whether or not a student had mastered the associated learning goals and not just memorized the answers to the old exam questions. We as instructors do this all the time.

Asking yourself how you might CREATE a new question that an instructor could use to test the same learning goals. We as instructors do this all the time too.

Some notes on Nota Bene

Nota Bene (NB) is an online resource for collaborative commenting and discussion. You will be required to contribute thoughtful comments, intelligent questions, or even answers to questions from your classmates on selected readings or movies. Your instructors will assign the relevant content via URLs. The reading and discussion forum are intended to help you prepare for lecture, learn the core course concepts, and to develop the intellectual skills we expect from our students. Assignments in NB will be graded and your score will depend on the quality of your contributions.

As your instructors and TAs, we look forward to reading the NB discussions. We will add our own comments, flag misconceptions, and highlight particularly good or informative comments or threads. We hope that you'll find the feedback useful. These discussions also help us to focus our limited time together in lecture on the content/skills that seem most confusing or difficult to master. As each class is slightly different, this will hopefully allow us to more effectively tailor lecture time for your needs.

Knowledge and Learning

Teaching and Learning Science

Teaching and learning science are both challenging endeavors. As instructors, we need to communicate complex, highly interconnected concepts that will serve as a foundation for all your future studies. We also want our students to demonstrate mastery of these ideas at a high level. As students, you need to learn a large new vocabulary, create mental models on which you can "hang" the new conceptual knowledge, and demonstrate that you can actually use this new knowledge. The process challenges both the instructor and the student. Although the process involves hard work, it can also be incredibly rewarding. There is nothing more satisfying for an instructor than those “Aha!” moments when a student suddenly understands an important concept.

In BIS2A we face some interesting teaching and learning challenges. One key challenge is that we discuss physical things and ideas that exist or happen on time and/or size scales that are not familiar to most students. What does this mean? Consider the following example:

Example: Some challenges associated with creating mental models

An instructor teaching wildlife biology may want to talk about concepts in evolution by using bird beaks as a starting point for discussion. In this case, the instructor does not need to spend time creating mental pictures of different shaped bird beaks (or at the very least only needs to show one image); most students will readily draw on their past knowledge and everyday lives to create mental pictures of duck, eagle, or wood pecker beaks and infer the different functional reasons why Nature might have selected different shapes. As a consequence, the students will not need to expend any mental effort imagining what the beaks look like and can instead focus all of their energies on the core evolutionary lesson.

More colloquially: If you are asked to think about something new that is closely related to something you already know well, it is not too difficult to focus on the new material.

By contrast, in BIS2A we ask students to think about and discuss things that happen on the atomic, molecular and cellular scales and at rates that span microseconds to millennia. Most students, we will guess, have not lived life on the micro to nanometer scale. Yet, this length scale is where most of the events common to all biological systems takes place. Beginning students, who have not thought much about how things happen at the molecular scale, lack mental models upon which to add new information. This starting point places a burden on both the student and the instructors to create and reinforce NEW mental models for many of the things we talk about in class. For instance, to really talk about how proteins function, we first need to develop a common set of models and vocabulary for representing molecules at the atomic and molecular levels. Not only do these models need to find ways of representing the molecule’s structure, but the models must also contain abstract ideas about the chemical properties of molecules and how these molecules interact. Therefore, students in BIS2A need to put some effort into constructing mental models of what proteins "look" like and how they behave at the molecular scale. Since the entire course centers around biomolecules and processes that happen at a microscopic scale, a similar argument can be made for nearly every topic in the class.

Note: Possible Discussion

How do you interpret the term mental model and why do you think that it is important for learning?

Some of the in-class and study guide exercises are designed to help with meeting this challenge; most students have found them very useful. However, some students are more accustomed to studying for exams by memorizing information rather than understanding it. (It's not their fault; that's what they were asked to do in the past). As a result, if the problems are approached with the "memorize-at-all-costs" attitude


of the BIS2A exercises may initially seem pointless. For instance, why are your instructors asking you to repeatedly draw some of the concepts described in class? What multiple-choice question could that exercise possibly prepare you for? While it is true that some of your instructors won't ask you to draw complicated figures on an exam, these drawing exercises are not trying to prepare students for one specific question. Rather the instructor is trying to encourage you to begin creating a mental model for yourself and to practice using it. The act of drawing can also serves as a "self test." When you force yourself to write something down or to create a picture describing a process on paper, you will be able to independently assess how strong your conceptual grasp of a topic really is by seeing how easy or hard it was to put your mental image of something onto paper. If it is hard for you to draw a core concept or process from class WITHOUT EXTERNAL ASSISTANCE, it is likely that you need more practice. If it is easy, you are ready to add new information to your model. Throughout the course, you will continue to add new information to your mental model or to use the concept represented in your mental model in a new context. Keep your drawings - or other self-testing mechanisms - current. Don't fall behind.

Incidentally, the presentation of a course concept on an exam in a context that the student has never seen before is NOT an evil plot by the instructor. Rather it is a way for the instructor and student to assess whether the concept has been learned and whether that knowledge can be used/transferred by the student outside of the specific example given in class or in the reading. Asking the student to repeat the latter would represent an exercise in memorization and would not be an assessment of valuable learning and independent thinking or a representation of what happens in real life.

IMPORTANT: The idea that students in BIS2A will be tested on their ability to USE concepts in specific contexts that they haven't seen before is critical to understand! Take special heed of this knowledge. Developing usable conceptual knowledge takes more discipline and work than memorizing. The quarter also moves VERY fast and concepts are layered one on top of the other. If you get too far behind, it is very, very difficult to make up for lost time two or three days before an exam. Be as disciplined as you can and keep up with course materials.

So, some concepts are hard to teach and to understand. What are we to do? Something instructors and students both do is to use various communication tricks to simplify or make abstract ideas more relatable. We use tools like analogies or simplified models (more on the importance of these shortly) to describe complex ideas. Making things more relatable can take various forms. Instructors might try to use various simlies or metaphors to take advantage of mental pictures or conceptual models that students already have (drawn from everyday life) to explain something new. For instance, the thing X that you don't understand works a little like thing Y that you do understand. Sometimes, this helps ground a discussion. Another thing you might catch an instructor or student doing is anthropomorphizing the behaviors of physical things that are unfamiliar. For example we might say molecule A “wants" to interact with molecule B to simplify the more correct but more complex description of the chemical energetics involved in the interaction between molecules A and B. Anthropomorphisms can be useful because, like similes and metaphors, they attempt to link the creation of new ideas and mental models to concepts that already exist in the student's brain.

While these tools can be great and effective they nevertheless need to be used carefully - by both the instructor and the student. The main risk associated with these simplifying tools is that they can create conceptual connections that shouldn't exist, that lead to unintended misconceptions, or that makes it more difficult to connect a new concept. So while these tools are valid, we - students and instructors - also need to be vigilant about understanding the limits these tools have in our ability to learn new ideas. If these pedagogical tools are useful but their use also carries risk, how do we proceed?

The remedy has two parts:

1. Recognize when one of these "simplifying" tools is being used and

2. Try to determine where the specific analogy, metaphor etc. works and where it fails conceptually.

The second instruction is the most difficult and may prove challenging for learners, particularly when they are first exposed to a new concept. However, the act of simply thinking about the potential problems associated with an analogy or model is an important metacognitive exercise that will help students learn. In BIS2A your instructors will occasionally expect you to explicitly recognize the use of these pedagogical tools and to explain the trade-offs associated with their use. Your instructors will also help you with this by explicitly pointing out examples or prodding you to recognize a potential issue.

Note: Possible Discussion

Can you give an example from your previous classes where an instructor has used an anthropomorphism to describe a nonhuman thing? What were/are the trade-offs of the description (i.e. why did the description work and what were its limitations)?

Using vocabulary

It is also worth noting another problematic issue that can needlessly confound students just starting out in a discipline - the use of vocabulary terms that potentially have multiple definitions and/or the incorrect use of vocabulary terms that have strict definitions. While this is not a problem unique to biology, it is nevertheless important to recognize that it occurs. We can draw from real-life examples to get a better sense of this issue. For instance, when we say something like "I drove to the store", a couple of things are reasonably expected to be immediately understood. We don't need to say "I sat in and controlled a four-wheeled, enclosed platform, that is powered by the combustion of fossil fuel to a building that collects goods I want to obtain and can do so by exchanging fungible currency for said goods" to convey the core of our message. The downside to using the terms "drove" and "store" is that we have potentially lost important details about what really happened. Perhaps the car is battery powered and that is important to understanding some detail of the story that follows (particularly if that part of the story involves calling a tow truck driver to pick you up after the car has broken down). Perhaps knowing the specific store is important for understanding context. Sometimes those details don't matter, but sometimes if they aren’t known it can lead to confusion. Using vocabulary correctly and being careful about word choice is important. Knowing when to simplify and when to give extra detail is also key.


In the laboratory, undergraduate students in biology will often report back to their mentors that "my experiment worked" without sharing important details of what it means to have "worked", what the evidence is, how strong the evidence is, or what the basis is for their judgment - all details that are critical to understanding exactly what happened. If and/or when you start working in a research lab do yourself and your advisor the favor of describing IN DETAIL what you were trying to accomplish (don't assume they'll remember the details), how you decided to accomplish your goal (experimental design), what the exact results were (showing properly labeled data is advised), and providing your interpretation. If you want to end your description by saying "therefore, it worked!" that's also great.

Note: Possible Discussion

Can you think of an example where the imprecise or incorrect use of vocabulary caused needless confusion in real life? Describe the example and discuss how the confusion could have been avoided.

Problem Solving

Educators and employers alike have all argued strongly in recent years that the ability to solve problems is one of the most important skills that should be taught to and nurtured in university students. Medical, professional, and graduate schools alike look for students with demonstrated ability to solve problems; the MCAT has even recently changed its format to more specifically assess student’s ability to solve problems. Life is full of problems to solve, irrespective of the profession one chooses. Effective problem-solving skills are important!

Despite a clear demand for this skill set, it is surprisingly rare to find problem solving taught explicitly in formal educational settings, particularly in core science courses where the transmission and memorization of “facts” usually take precedence.

In BIS2A, we want to start changing this. After all, nobody really cares if you’ve memorized the name or catalytic rate of the third enzyme in the citric acid cycle (not even standardized tests), but a lot of people care if you can use information about that enzyme and the context it functions in to help develop a new drug, design a metabolic pathway for making a new fuel, or help understand its importance in the evolution of biological energy transformations.

Your instructors believe that the ability to solve problems is a skill like any other. It is NOT an innate (i.e. you’ve either got it or you don’t) aptitude. Problem solving can be broken down into a set of skills that can be taught and practiced to mastery. So, even if you do not consider yourself a good problem solver today, there is no reason why you can’t become a better problem solver with some guidance and practice. If you think that you are already a good problem solver, you can still get better.

Cognitive scientists have thought about problem solving a lot. Some of this thinking has focused on trying to classify problems into different types. While problems come in many different flavors (and we’ll see some different types throughout the course), most problems can be classified along a continuum of how well-structured they are.

At one end of the continuum are well-structured problems. These are the types of problems that you usually encounter in school. They usually have most of the information required to solve the problem, ask you to apply some known rules or formulas, and have a pre-prescribed answer. On the other end of the continuum are ill-structured problems. These are the types of problems you will usually face in real life or at work. Ill-structured problems are often poorly defined and usually do not include all of the information required to solve them. There may be multiple ways of solving them, and even multiple possible “correct” outcomes/answers.

Note: Possible Discussion

Well-structured problems (like the story problems you might often encounter in text books) are often set in an artificial context, while the ill-structured problems one faces in day-to-day life are often set in a very specific context (your life). Is it possible for multiple people to observe the same situation and perceive different problems associated with it? How does context and perception influence how one might identify a problem, its solution, or its importance?

To have a fruitful/enriching discussion it pays to start by presenting an example AND some direct reasoning. Replies that acknowledge the initial comment and either provide an extension of the original argument (by way of a new perspective or example) or provide a reasoned counter-argument the are most valuable follow-ups.

Problems can also be “simple” or “complex,” depending on how many different variables need to be considered to find a solution. They can also be considered as “dynamic” if they change over time. Other problem classification schemes include story problems, rule-based problems, decision-making problems, troubleshooting problems, policy problems, design problems, and dilemmas. As you can see, problem solving is a complicated topic, and a proper, in-depth discussion about it could take up multiple courses.

While the topic of problem solving is fascinating, in BIS2A we aren’t interested in teaching the theories of problem solving per se. However, we ARE interested in teaching students skills that are applicable to solving most types of problems, giving students an opportunity to practice these skills, and assessing whether or not they are improving their problem-solving abilities.

Note: Since we are asking you to think explicitly about problem solving, it is fair to expect that your ability to do so will be evaluated on exams. Do not be surprised by this.

We are going to incorporate problem solving into the class in a number of different ways:

  1. We will be explicitly teaching elements of problem solving in class.
  2. We will have some questions on the study guides that encourage problem solving.
  3. We will make frequent use of the pedagogical tool we call the “Design Challenge” to help structure our discussion of the topics we cover in class.

When we are using the Design Challenge in class, we are working on problem solving. Within the context of the Design Challenge, your instructor may also present other specific concepts related to problem solving – like decision-making. Slides will be marked explicitly to engage you to think about problem solving. Your instructor will also remind you verbally on a regular basis.

Genetic Genealogy Ireland

Talk Titles
1. Early Irelanders: who were they and what happened to them?
2. The formation of the insular Atlantic genome: Over 4000 years of continuity on Europe’s northwest extreme?

Talk 1 - Ancient genomes from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods can shed light on social organisation in prehistoric Ireland. We explore this here, alongside the contribution these groups made to the modern Irish.

Talk 2 - We explore the signals of genetic continuity (and discontinuity!) in Ireland from the Copper Age onwards using haplotypic data taken from both modern and ancient populations. Ancient data also allows us to trace the appearance and distribution of Y chromosome lineages through time on the island.

Employment Experience:

2018- to date: Postdoctoral Researcher, Trinity College Dublin. PI: Prof Dan Bradley
Project: Ancient Genomics and the Atlantic Burden

June 2012 - August 2012: Research Assistant, Ecological Genetics Lab, National Institute of Genetics, Mishima, Japan. Supervisor: Prof Jun Kitano.
Project: Investigating the phylogeography of Japanese threespine sticklebacks using microsatellite markers.

Education & Qualifications:

2013-2018: Ph.D. Genetics, Trinity College Dublin

2009-2013: B.A Human Genetics, Trinity College Dublin First Class Honours

The Leslie Bloomer Prize in Human Genetics, Trinity College Dublin (2012)
Gold Medal for Degree Examinations, Trinity College Dublin (2013)
Overall winner in the Life Sciences category of the 2013 Undergraduate Awards

Lara's thesis is available at the following link but access is embargoed until May 2020 - A Genomic Compendium of an Island: Documenting Continuity and Change across Irish Human Prehistory .

Previous Presentation at GGI2018: A Genomic Compendium of an Island: Documenting Continuity and Change across Irish Human Prehistory

Lara discussed the findings of her recently completed thesis which assessed the genomes of 93 ancient skeletal remains across the island of Ireland. This analysis provided the most comprehensive analysis yet of prehistorical migrations into Ireland and how the arrival of these waves of new populations shaped who the people of Ireland are today.

Named Lectures

Alfred Burger served on the faculty of the Chemistry Department from 1938 until his retirement in 1970, teaching organic and medicinal chemistry to over 4,500 students. His research activities with a staff of 40 graduate and 33 post-doctoral students included studies of analgesic, chemo-therapeutic and antidepressant drugs. One of his synthetic compounds was developed as a widely used clinical antidepressant under the name of tanylcypromine (Parnate). He was Chairman of the Chemistry Department in 1962-63.

Marie Payne Graham Memorial Lecture

These lectures are made possible through a generous endowment created by Dr. Robert L. Graham, retired Professor of Minnesota State University, Mankato, to honor the memory of his wife of 46 years, the former Marie Payne of Staunton. Dr. Graham was a 1958 Ph.D. in Chemistry at UVa under Dr. Loren George Heppler (Physical Chemistry). Dr. Graham taught for 4 years at Virginia Tech, and then 26 years at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Gwathmey Lecture

Allan Gwathmey was born in Richmond, Virginia on July 29, 1903. He attended preparatory school in Richmond and received his B.S. degree from Virginia Military Institute in 1923. Following several years of employment as an engineer, he continued his schooling and obtained a B.S. in Electrochemical Engineering from MIT in 1928. After several years of industrial research, Allan Gwathmey entered graduate school at the University of Virginia during the severe depression years of the early 1930s, and earned the Ph.D. degree in Chemistry in 1938. He chose to do his thesis research in low voltage electron diffraction, a field which later became popularly known as LEED. During this work it was noted that a spherical single crystal of copper exhibited a pattern of interference colors when it was heated. This observation captured his fancy in such a way that an understanding of the anisotropic surface properties of metals became the focal point for his research efforts during the next 25 years. He continued at the University of Virginia as a research associate until his appointment as a member of the Chemistry Department faculty in about 1947 and remained a member of the faculty until his death in 1963.

Hecht Lecture

Sidney Hecht was the John W. Mallet Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Biology at the University of Virginia from 1978 until 2008. He is currently the Director of the Center for Bioenergetics in the Biodesign Institute and Professor of Chemistry at Arizona State University. From 1981 to 1987, Dr. Hecht held concurrent appointments first as Vice President, Preclinical Research and Development, and then Vice President, Chemical Research and Development at SmithKline & French Laboratories, where he was appointed a Distinguished Fellow. From 1971 to 1979, he was assistant professor and then associate professor of chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Hecht received his B.A. in Chemistry from the University of Rochester and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Illinois. He serves on the board of directors of Pinnacle Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Ireland Lecture

Robert Ellsworth Ireland received his A.B. from Amherst in 1951, a Ph.D. under the direction of William S. Johnson from the University of Wisconsin in 1954, and was a NSF postdoctoral fellow in the group of William G. Young at the University of California, Los Angeles, from 1954-56. He joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1956, was appointed Professor of Chemistry at the California Institute of Technology in 1965, and in 1985 became Director of the Merrel-Dow research Institute in Strasbourg, France. He came to the University of Virginia in 1986, where he served as Chairman and subsequently was selected as the first Thomas Jefferson Professor of Chemistry. He assumed Emeritus status in 1995.

In 1999, a group of former students and postdocs formed the Robert E. Ireland Lectureship in Organic Synthesis with funding from Merck & Co., Pharmacia, SmithKline Beecham, Roche-Syntex, Lilly, Amgen, Wyeth Ayerst, Agouron, and Abott (solicited by Joseph P. Armstrong, a former postdoc with Bob). Subsequent sustaining contributions have beed received from Organic Synthesies (courtesy of Peter Wipf), David Evans, and James Marshall.

Jefferson Lecture

Lutz Lecture

Robert Eliot Lutz was born on March 24, 1900. After his early education in the Boston School system and a brief draft into the Armed Forces at the end of World War I, he entered Harvard University, graduating with a B. A. degree in 1921. He continued his studies in the Harvard Chemistry Department and obtained a M. A. degree in 1922 and the Ph.D. degree in 1925.

Dr. Lutz joined the University of Virginia Chemistry Department as an associate professor in 1928 and was promoted to full professor in 1940. At Virginia he initiated graduate courses and graduate research in organic chemistry, teaching courses at the senior and graduate levels, emphasizing the then emerging theoretical foundations of his science. He was asked to direct one of the earliest efforts directed toward the synthesis of potential antimalarials. With a group of graduate students, Lutz prepared hundred of synthetic analogs of quinine for testing as antimalarials. Twenty years later, the Walter Reed Army Research Institute turned to Dr. Lutz again for cooperation with problems in chemical synthesis. Working with postdoctorals as well as graduate assistants, Lutz completed the synthesis of a number of new molecules including meflaquine.

About seventy-five graduate students received their doctoral degrees under Dr. Lutz’s guidance and nearly fifty received MS. Degrees. At his retirement, his former students established the Lutz Lectureship.

Pratt Lecture

Born October 1879 in King George County Virginia, John Lee Pratt rose from modest beginnings to one of the wealthiest persons in America. As a youth he worked in a Fredricksberg equipment store, and there became interested in Mechanics. This led him to attain a civil engineering degree from UVA in 1902. After graduation he worked as an engineer for Dupont then transferred to General Motors where he eventually rose to become vice-president (1922).
The legend is that Pratt, when working for GM, dropped off an engine that had failed to the engineering dept to have the crankcase oil analyzed. When Pratt, on a return visit, discovered that the engine was still on the loading dock, he approached Professor John Yoe, an Analytical Chemistry professor, who eventually analyzed the crankcase oil.
John Pratt and his wife were generous philanthropists. In April 1976 the University received funds designated in the will of Pratt to be used to “supplement salaries of professors in the Departments of Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Chemistry (but NOT engineering) …and to provide scholarships for graduate students.”

Schatz Lecture

Paul N. Schatz has published widely in spectroscopic areas ranging from the study of absolute infrared intensities to Magnetic Circular Dichroism (MCD) measurements on matrix isolated species using Synchrotron Radiation in the vacuum ultraviolet, as well as on the theory of mixed valence compounds.


To be eligible, a person must currently hold a full-time faculty appointment at UAB, as defined by the UAB Faculty Handbook.

A nomination package should consist of an essay and the faculty member's curriculum vitae. Additional guidelines are below. This information should be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on January 15, 2020, to Veronica Speight (HHB 560, 4-5238, [email protected]). Questions can be directed to [email protected]

  • The Montaigne Prize will be a cash prize and award, awarded for a scholarly essay in the history of ideas written by any member of the University’s faculty. The winning essay will make a unique contribution to the history of thought and culture. The term "history of ideas" is to be interpreted liberally, encompassing a broad range of interdisciplinary concerns, including those at the intersection of cultural and intellectual history.
  • The Montaigne Prize will be awarded by the College of Arts and Sciences. An individual may receive the award only once in any three-year period.
  • All submissions will be blind. Any unpublished essay may be submitted. Pending publication essays may be submitted but should appear in print the calendar year of submission. All entries should be submitted in a form that is suitable for publication and in English.
  • Entries will be reviewed anonymously by a committee panel of judge-scholars, on which former winners may be asked to serve by the College. No panel judge is allowed to submit an entry the year they serve on the panel.
  • The author's name should not appear anywhere in the essay, and each submission must be accompanied by a cover sheet identifying the author.
  • The winner will be recognized by the College of Arts and Sciences and he/she may be asked to give a presentation, which will be open to the public. The College also may provide a plaque should funds be available from endowment earnings or other sources.
  • The Prize will be awarded provided that three or more entries are received. If fewer than three entries are submitted, the Prize is to be awarded the following year.

The UAB College of Arts and Sciences will offer a training session for students preparing an application to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Training will occur on Thursday, Sept. 5, at 3:30 p.m. in Volker Hall Lecture Room B.

The UAB College of Arts and Sciences will offer a training session for students preparing an application to the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP). Training will occur on Thursday, September 5, 2019, at 3:30 pm in Volker Hall Lecture Room B. We welcome anyone from across the UAB campus to attend.

The NSF GRFP program offers up to three years of financial support to graduate students enrolled in a wide range of scientific fields. The program’s stipend is generous ($34,000 per year, plus up to $12,000 for “cost-of-education allowance,” including tuition), although the written application is short compared to many other grants and fellowships. Students may apply as undergraduates or in their first or second year of graduate school. There are various categories of students who are excluded from submitting, including international students and those who recently earned a master’s degree and are entering a Ph.D. program. Deadlines for submission are from October 21 to November 1, 2019, depending on the field of study.

More information about the fellowship program solicitation is available at the National Science Foundation website.

Annual prize awarded to College of Arts and Sciences Faculty.

The Ireland Prize for Scholarly Distinction will be presented at a reception to be held in the Fall of 2019. Candidates for this award must be a full-time, regular College of Arts and Sciences faculty member who has (1) demonstrated notable achievements in their field of the arts and sciences, (2) gained national and/or international recognition of peers, and (3) demonstrated talents that contribute to the elevation of the arts and sciences at UAB and in the Birmingham community.

Nominations for this award are solicited each year with a faculty committee choosing the winner. A letter of nomination and a current vitae of the nominee should be included. The prize carries a cash award. The funds for this award are provided by an endowment established by Caroline P. Ireland and the late Charles W. Ireland for the purpose of recognizing, rewarding, and encouraging scholarly distinction in the arts and sciences.

Please submit your nominations or requests for additional information to Dr. Catherine Danielou ([email protected]) in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Office, Heritage Hall 560. The deadline for receipt of nominations is Friday, April 12, 2019.

The UAB College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to again offer campus-wide training to junior faculty planning to apply for a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award.

The UAB College of Arts and Sciences is pleased to again offer campus-wide training to junior faculty planning to apply for a National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award. The NSF awards CAREER research grants to new faculty at universities who are at the rank of Assistant Professor (or equivalent) in any of the broad science and social science disciplines that are eligible for NSF grants.

Training will be led by NSF CAREER awardee Dr. Eugenia Kharlampieva (Department of Chemistry), with support from current and previous awardees in multiple College of Arts and Sciences departments. The two-session training program will walk applicants through the process of applying for and winning prestigious CAREER Awards from the NSF. All UAB faculty members are invited to attend.

Sessions will be held in Heritage Hall Room 500 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on April 5 and 19. The second session builds off knowledge from the first, so attendance at both sessions is recommended. Lunch will be provided.

To assist with catering plans, please RSVP your intention to attend by Wednesday, March 25 to Veronica Speight at [email protected]

Twenty-six College of Arts and Sciences employees who have worked at UAB for 20 years or more were recognized at the annual UAB Service Awards Reception on March 1, 2019.

Dr. Harriet Amos Doss Twenty-six College of Arts and Sciences employees who have worked at UAB for 20 years or more were recognized at the annual UAB Service Awards Reception on March 1, 2019. These dedicated colleagues were honored for their number of years of employment at UAB as of December 31, 2018.

The UAB Service Awards are given to active employees beginning at five years of employment and at each five-year milestone. Employees who reach 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 45 years of service are presented with a service award pin, certificate, and a gift of gratitude.

This year, Dr. Harriet Amos Doss, associate professor in the Department of History, was honored for her 40 years of service to UAB. We congratulate her and all of our colleagues for their hard work and commitment.

Kelly Allison, Theatre
Dr. Todd Devore, Physics
Dr. Cassandra Ellis, English
Mary Pamela (Pam) Gore, Psychology
Christopher S. (Kip) Hubbard, Advising
Dr. Bruce T. McComiskey, English
Staci Bishop McKay, Psychology
Dr. James Larry Powell, Communication Studies
Dr. Jeffery (Jeff) Warren Reynolds, Music
Dr. Cynthia Ryan, English
Susan Brooke Thompson, Dean's Office/Grants
Dr. Trygve Tollefsbol, Biology

Dr. David Basilico, English
Amy W. Evans, Dean's Office/Administration
Dr. Wendy Gunther-Canada, Political Science and Public Administration
Dr. Christopher M. Lawson, Physics
Deborah W. Littleton, Advising
Dr. Sergey B. Mirov, Physics
Dr. Eduardo De Castro Neiva, Jr. Communication Studies
Dr. Carlos L. Orihuela, Foreign Languages and Literatures
Dr. Mary B. Whall, Philosophy
Dr. Thane Wibbels, Biology

Dr. Jonathan H. Amsbary, Communication Studies
Dr. R. Douglas (Doug) Watson, Biology

Dr. Gary Gray, Chemistry

Dr. Harriet E. Amos Doss, History

Established in 2018, the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes full-time regular faculty members of College of Arts and Sciences who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching.

Established in 2018, the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching recognizes full-time regular faculty members of College of Arts and Sciences who have demonstrated exceptional accomplishments in teaching. The individual must have held faculty status at UAB for a minimum of three years and may receive the award only once in any three-year period. Winners were selected by the CAS President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Committee from three groupings of the College's academic departments:

  • Arts and Humanities – Art and Art History, Music, Theatre, Communication Studies, English, Foreign Languages, History and Philosophy
  • Natural Sciences and Mathematics – Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Physics and Mathematics
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences – African American Studies, Anthropology, Criminal Justice, Political Science and Public Administration, Psychology, Social Work and Sociology

Winners were selected for their outstanding accomplishments in teaching as demonstrated by broad and thorough knowledge of the subject area ability to convey difficult concepts fairness, open-mindedness and accessibility to students ability to inspire and mentor students effective use of innovative teaching methods, promotion of ethical and professional values modeling service and scholarly activities and more.

The three winners will be honored at a reception at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts on March 5 and will be considered for the final College of Arts and Sciences nominee for the President’s Award of Excellence in Teaching.

From the Arts and Humanities, Dr. DeReef Jamison, Associate Professor in the African American Studies Program

Dr. Jamison explores the connections between Africana intellectual history and social science, particularly the notion of cultural consciousness. In his teaching, Dr. Jamison encourages students to think critically about the world in which they live. As he says in his faculty bio, he seeks to follow the model set by pioneering African American Studies scholars who stressed academic excellence, social responsibility, and social change.

Dr. Jamison received his bachelor's degree in psychology from Bowie State University, his master's in community psychology from Florida A&M University, and his doctorate from Temple University in African American Studies.

One of his student nominators said, "Dr. Jamison's classroom is unlike any other educational space. His remarkable teaching style remains a highlight of my education at UAB. He also takes a careful interest in each student and is available to expound on class assignments and topics or just sit and listen to the fanciful ideas of aspiring scholars. It was Dr. Jamison’s encouragement that persuaded me to apply to be an intern at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and his love of and commitment to his research and publications emboldened me to pursue graduate school."

From the Natural Sciences and Mathematics, Dr. Karolina Mukhtar, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology

Dr. Mukhtar graduated with a joint B.S./M.Sc. in biology from the University of Szczecin, Poland. She received her Ph.D. in genetics from the Max-Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, Germany, and completed her post-doc in plant immunity from Duke University.

Her research focuses on various aspects of plant-microbe interactions using genetic and biochemical approaches. Specifically, she explores the interface between the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana and several of its pathogens, including both fungi and bacteria. She is a committed teacher at all levels, including K-12, and was named one of the 11 inaugural UAB Faculty Fellows in Service Learning.

She has created innovative teaching methods and is committed to developing instructional strategies for students with various learning disabilities. In Spring 2015, she was named Outstanding Faculty Mentor by the Office of Disability Support Services.

One of Dr. Mukhtar's student nominators said, "Dr. Mukhtar's engaging lectures, clear explanations, and presentation of the field's newest discoveries combined to make my undergraduate Plant Biology class the best lecture-based course I have ever experienced. Later, when I was one of her Supplemental Instruction Leaders, she always made sure I had everything I needed to do my job well and made time to explain the concepts so I could better serve the students. I was able to see how she adapted her plans based on the needs of the students. She consistently looks for ways to improve her teaching methods to ensure her students gain a deeper understanding of genetics."

From the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Erin Borry, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration

Dr. Borry's research focuses on bureaucratic structure, employee minority status, and employee willingness to bend rules and perceptions of red tape. She has also published work on governmental transparency and government websites.

Dr. Borry received her bachelor's degree and master's in public administration from Rutgers University and her doctorate from the University of Kansas. She currently serves as the digital media editor for the journal Public Integrity and as a board member for two sections within the American Society for Public Administration. She is also a research fellow with the Center for Organization Research and Design (CORD) at Arizona State University and is an affiliated researcher with the Local Government Workplaces Initiative (LGWI) at the University of North Carolina.

Some of her most recent courses include Human Resources Management, Intergovernmental Relations, Open Government, and Scope of Public Administration.

One of her nominators wrote, "Dr. Borry’s teaching influences my daily leadership. As an executive director of a local non-profit, I frequently rely on the concepts Dr. Borry demonstrated in the Human Resource Management class. When I took her class, I had limited experience managing employees. She had the challenging task of conveying a topic with which most of us had no experience, and she did so brilliantly. I’ve heard that alumni success raises the caliber of academic programs. However, alumni would not be successful without relevant, engaging, and high-caliber teaching. Dr. Erin Borry provides the academic foundation for me and my fellow alumni to succeed."

Jill Clements, Ph.D., has been named as the recipient of the first Michel de Montaigne Endowed Prize in the History of Ideas.

Jill Clements, Ph.D., has been named as the recipient of the first Michel de Montaigne Endowed Prize in the History of Ideas.

Established by Dr. Catherine Danielou, Senior Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, the prize honors the 16th-century French philosopher who is credited with developing the essay as a literary form. Candidates for the award had to hold a full-time appointment at UAB and provide a scholarly essay in the history of ideas that made a unique contribution to the history of thought and culture. Clements was selected by a committee of senior faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences for her essay, "Sudden Death in Early Medieval England and the Anglo-Saxon Fortunes of Men."

Clements will receive a $1,000 award and will be honored at the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Book Reception on March 5.

Biology faculty Sami Raut and Jeff Morris. Underrepresented minorities make up about 30% of the U.S. population but only 5% of U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) doctorates. UAB Department of Biology assistant professors Sami Raut, Ph.D., and Jeff Morris, Ph.D., along with Co-PIs Jeff Olimpo, Ph.D. (University of Texas at El Paso), and Trent Sutton, Ph.D. (University of Alaska Fairbanks), intend to change this statistic. The four PIs have secured a $500,000 NSF education grant that aims to increase research inclusivity through a grassroots culture of scientific teaching.

“A lot of students from underrepresented groups come in to UAB from community colleges and don’t know that undergraduate research is a thing you can do,” says Morris. “Our goal is to get them involved in genuine research while they’re still in introductory classes with the hope that it will get them excited about pursuing careers in science.”

Funded through 2023, the team will build a network of faculty and staff at the three hub universities, as well as their affiliated community and technical colleges, with an eye toward putting active learning and CURE (Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience) reforms into as many introductory-level biology classes as possible.

Takashi Shinozuka, Consul-General of Japan in Atlanta, presented the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures a grant for $30,000 to further Japanese education in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences.

Mr. Takashi Shinozuka, Consul-General of Japan in Atlanta, presented the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures a grant for $30,000 to further Japanese education in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences.

In his role as Consul-General of Japan in Atlanta, Shinozuka is responsible for strengthening relations between and Japan and the United States, specifically in the four states in his jurisdiction: Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Unfortunately, on the day of the scheduled reception and award presentation, Hurricane Florence was making landfall and Shinozuka was required to stay in Atlanta to provide assistance to Japanese citizens affected by the storm. But he was connected to the reception via Skype and gave remarks praising UAB and the department for their support of Japanese-language and cultural education.

In Shinozuka's absence, Mark Jackson, a local businessman and Alabama's Consul-General to Japan, shared remarks and presented the check to Provost Pam Benoit, Ph.D. Dean Robert Palazzo, Ph.D. Chair Julian Arribas, Ph.D. and Yumi Takamiya, Ph.D., assistant professor of Japanese—all of whom spoke at the reception. Additional speakers included alumna Jolie Thevenot, who graduated with a minor in Japanese and is the director of the Japan-America Society of Alabama (JASA), and Bezawit Eyob, a current student and instructor of Japanese who is pursuing her minor in the language. Thevanot and Eyob gave their remarks in both Japanese and English.

Dr. Stacy Krueger-Hadfield, assistant professor in the Department of Biology, along with her Israeli colleague Dr. Gil Rilov, secured a $60,000 Binational Science Foundation Start-Up Grant that will investigate the response to temperature and ocean acidification in the Levantine region of the Mediterranean Sea. This is one of the fastest warming regions in the world, but in terms of evolutionary ecology, is poorly understood despite being heavily impacted for thousands of years by human behavior, such as over-fishing. With the support of the two-year grant, Krueger-Hadfield and Rilov will use one native and one non-native seaweed to contrast response to these abiotic stressors associated with climate change. They will follow up with work on differences in mating system dynamics that might help them forecast how these population will respond to climate change. UAB alumna Kathryn Schoenrock will also collaborate on this project with Drs. Krueger-Hadfield and Rilov during this project.

In addition, Dr. Krueger-Hadfield was part of an international team that was awarded an Agence Nationale de la Recherche Appel à Projets Générique (French National Research Agency General Projects 437.707,80€) called Clonix2D that will use algal, cnidarian, pathogen, plant, and aphid models to expand the tools available for population genetics in organisms that are partially clonal (i.e., they undergo both sexual and asexual reproduction. The consortium will build on a previous iteration, Clonix, that released many new analytical tools for population genetics. Dr. Krueger-Hadfield will co-coordinate one of the working groups on the dissemination of results and outreach while also contributing data sets for testing new population genetic tools.

The premiere lecture in the new PAINTalks Speaker Series will feature Dr. Roger Fillingim, a world-renowned clinical researcher in the field of chronic pain and past-president of the American Pain Society.

The premiere lecture in the new PAINTalks Speaker Series will feature Dr. Roger Fillingim, a world-renowned clinical researcher in the field of chronic pain and past-president of the American Pain Society. PAINTalks is a series of public lectures by leading experts that focuses on the latest research and treatment for the relief and management of chronic pain and is sponsored by the UAB College of Arts and Sciences Department of Psychology.

The October 25, 2018, lecture is entitled, “Let’s Get Personal: How Can Biology, Psychology, and Social Influences Inform Personalized Pain Treatment.” The event will be held at the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts (AEIVA) and guests are invited to attend a reception at 5:00 p.m. immediately preceding the 5:30 p.m. lecture. The reception and lecture are free and open to the public.

Fillingim earned his doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology from UAB, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship in pain research at the University of North Carolina. From 1996-2000 he was an Assistant Professor of Psychology at UAB, and in 2000 he moved to the University of Florida as an Associate Professor in the College of Dentistry. Currently, he is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Florida, College of Dentistry and the Director of the University of Florida Pain Research and Intervention Center of Excellence (PRICE). Fillingim served as the President of the American Pain Society (2012-2014) and has authored over 250 peer-reviewed articles related to pain.

AEIVA is located at 1221 10th Avenue South on UAB Campus directly across the street from the Alys Stephens Center for the Performing Arts. Parking is available in Lot 15D behind AEIVA, which can be accessed from both 13th Street and 11th Ave. S.

Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal Named Recipient of 2016 Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award

Internationally renowned primatologist Frans B. M. de Waal, Ph.D., has been named the 2016 winner of the Ireland Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award.

Dr. de Waal is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Psychology at Emory University, where he also directs the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Before moving to Yerkes, de Waal researched bonobos at the San Diego Zoo. He accepted his joint position at Yerkes and in the Department of Psychology at Emory in 1990.

Dr. de Waal was born in The Netherlands and trained as a zoologist and ethologist at the Dutch institutions of Radboud University Nijmegen, the University of Groningen, and Utrecht University. He received his doctorate in biology from Utrecht in 1977.

In 1982 he published his first book, Chimpanzee Politics , the result of a six-year study of the world’s largest captive colony of chimpanzees at the Royal Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem, The Netherlands. Chimpanzee Politics , as well as other scientific papers de Waal published early in his career, explored social strategies, deception and reconciliation within the primate colony. His work helped catalyze the field of primate cognition.

Dr de Waal’s research has long focused on the innate capacity for empathy among primates and the roots of moral behavior among humans. His many acclaimed books include Peacemaking among Primates (1989), Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals (1996), Tree of Origin: What Primate Behavior Can Tell Us About Human Social Evolution (2001), The Age of Empathy: Nature’s Lessons for a Kinder Society (2009) and The Bonobo and the Atheist (2013).

Despite the commonly held idea that humans are the only moral animals, Dr. de Waal’s research indicates a continuum of empathetic, altruistic and cooperative instincts between non-human apes and human beings. In The Age of Empathy , he argues that humans must understand where we came from before we can make social progress, a point he explains in a 2011 interview with Eric Michael Johnson of Scientific American : “ If you want to design a successful human society you need to know what kind of animal we are,” he says. “Are we a social animal or a selfish animal? Do we respond better when we're solitary or living in a group? … You should know as much as you can about the human species if you have a hand in designing human society.”

Today, Dr. de Waal continues to explore cultural learning, behavioral economics, empathy, communication, social reciprocity and conflict-resolution in primates, as well as the origins of morality and justice in human society. His research on the concept of fairness among primates has been of particular interest after recent political and corporate corruption has come to light in the U.S. and Europe. To learn more about his work, you can watch his 2011 TED talk here.

He has received the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Peacemaking among Primates (1989), is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (1993) and the United States National Academy of the Sciences (2004), was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People (2007), is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences (2008), was named Discover magazine’s 47 Great Minds of Science (2011), received the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Pioneer Award (2013) and the Galileo Prize from Padua University (Italy, 2014), and was named the 2015 Distinguished Primatologist from the American Society of Primatologists.

"The College of Arts and Sciences is excited to grant the Ireland Prize, the highest recognition of scholarly achievement offered by UAB, to Dr. Frans de Waal," says Dr. Robert Palazzo, Dean. "For decades Dr. de Waal has explored the roots of human behavior in primates. Through a lifetime of work, Dr. de Waal has documented that maintaining cooperative relationships and reconciling after a fight are important in both chimpanzees and bonobos, the two primate species most closely related to humans. His work explores complex questions of where our values, morality, and sense of justice originates. By examining the behavior and neuroscience of other primate species, Dr. de Waal also suggests ways that human beings can live more peacefully with each other. Fundamentally, his work sheds light on what it means to be human."

Science (Common Entry)

Studying science at WIT will broaden your understanding of the world around you and give you the skills needed to approach matters in a reasoned and analytical manner.

All of our programmes offer hands on practical experience and are highly regarded. The programmes were designed to meet the needs of industry in the region, nationally and internationally. Each program has a work placement built into the 3rd year. Feedback from employers and students about the placement experience is excellent.

What is Science (Common Entry)?

Science (Common Entry) was designed as a common entry course for the student who has a keen interest in science, but is unsure of which area they would like to specialise in. This course gives the student a flavour of a variety of different scientific disciplines, allowing them to keep their options open when applying to study science at third level.

Science (Common Entry) Degree Options

Upon completion of Year 1 of the BSc (Hons) in Science, students have the choice of progressing into the second year of any of the following degree courses that run in the Department of Science at WIT:

Course Modules

The modules of year 1 of the course offer an introduction to biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and computing. Elective modules are also offered in specialised areas such as Food Science, Pharmaceutical Science, Molecular Biology, Biopharmaceutical Science and Modern Physics. The student can get a taste of what is involved in each of these areas, before making a more informed choice as to which area they would like to specialise in for their degree.

Year 1
Semester 1Semester 2
Introductory Biology Cell Biology and Biochemistry
Introductory Chemistry Mathematics for Scientists
Introductory Physics Physical and Organic Chemistry
Introductory Mathematics Physics for Scientists
Introduction to ICT for ScientistsChoose two of the following electives:
Good Lab Practice and Core Skills *Introduction to Biotechnology and Pharmaceutical Science
*Introduction to Modern Physics
*Plant Biology
*Science & Society
*Introduction to Food Science

Leaving Cert: Minimum entry requirements for Science (Common Entry):

2 subjects: H5
4 subjects: O6/H7
English or Irish: O6/H7
Mathematics: O6/H7

Applying for Science (Common Entry) on the CAO:

You can apply for WD002 only ONCE. You must select ONE degree option i.e. WD002 PHA (Pharmaceutical Science), WD002 BIO (Molecular Biology with Biopharmaceutical Science), WD002 FOO (Food Science and Innovation), WD002 PHY (Physics for Modern Technology) or WD002 (Science common entry- no preference at this point). Applicants who are undecided should choose WD002 Common Entry.

Applicants who select a specific degree option are guaranteed a place in year 2 (e.g. WD002 BIO), subject to meeting the entry requirements and points.

At the end of year 1, students must confirm their degree option and may change their selection up to that date.

Advanced and Equivalent Entry for Science (Common Entry):

Recommendation for Science (Common Entry):

Applicants should note that a science subject (Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Physics with Chemistry or Agricultural Science) at Leaving Certificate is recommended for this programme.

Career Opportunities:

One of the best reasons for studying science is the wide variety of career opportunities that the graduate has access to. A science degree is a well-established platform to a surprisingly wide range of careers outside science (e.g. management, sales) as well as within science (laboratory, research, and teaching).

Career opportunities will be subject to your choice of specialist exit pathways. Science (Common Entry) is the gateway for four Level 8 BSc (Hons) degrees in Waterford Institute of Technology, which include the BSc (Hons) in Food Science and Innovation, BSc (Hons) in Molecular Biology with Biopharmaceutical Science, BSc (Hons) in Pharmaceutical Science, and BSc (Hons) in Physics for Modern Technology. At the end of first year you will be asked to select one of the courses to study in order to obtain your final award. For more information on career opportunities visit the courses under the follow on study section.

Follow on study:

Opportunities for postgraduate study are available at WIT and other insitutions. The opportunities for postgraduate study will be subject to the course you choose to get your degree in. For more information on the follow on study opportunities visit the following courses:

Dublin institute marks 75th anniversary of Schrödinger lecture

The title of the lecture “What is Life?”, was disarming in its simplicity but it was to prove to be profound in its impact. Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger, who had fled from Nazi Germany, was about to turn the world of biological research on its head.

His paper, delivered in the Physics Theatre of Trinity College Dublin – 75 years ago on Monday – is regarded as Ireland’s greatest contribution to modern science.

It was part of a series of three “statutory public lectures” that by 1944 became a book. After reading it, James Watson was inspired to answer the question, and went on with others to decipher the genetic code of life – the Double Helix – in 1953.

Schrödinger delivered his talk as head of school and professor of Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, which has marked the anniversary by releasing a series of photographs and newspaper clippings from his time at DIAS.

It was to inspire a generation of scientists in search of the building blocks of life but Schrödinger’s imprint was even more immense. He straddled quantum theory, biology and even philosophy. This was because questions raised by new quantum realities – courtesy of him and Albert Einstein – radically challenged taken-for-granted accounts of everyday life and being.

German passport

His German passport marked him as an enemy alien, but a letter from Éamon de Valera ensured him and his family safe passage.

As taoiseach, de Valera – a mathematician of note in his own right – founded the DIAS in 1940 and invited the Nobel-winning physicist over to join it.

Laboratory research, de Valera remarked, “would require equipment altogether beyond our means” but to excel in theoretical physics “all you want is an adequate library, the brains and the men, and just paper”.

The audience of 400 people at that first lecture ranged from invited schoolchildren, to de Valera (who took notes) and his Cabinet. The Irish Times reported on the event in a short single column story. Time magazine also covered the series.

Schrödinger told the audience “the whole subject” must be approached in the light of one question: “How can the events in space and time which take place within the boundary of an organism be accounted for by physics and chemistry?”

After he left in 1955, Schrödinger noted it was “almost shameful” how much peace he had to get on with his work in Ireland, a country that began as a place of exile and eventually became a sanctuary. He added sardonically, “Sometimes we would quietly say amongst ourselves: ‘We owe it to our Führer’.”

Watson was to observe during a visit to Ireland in 2015: “In a way Éamon de Valera made me.” Referring to What is Life? he added: “I realised it was very important and it was the book that turned me towards biology.”

Immensely proud

DIAS CEO and registrar Dr Eucharia Meehan said the institute was immensely proud to have had Schrödinger as the first director of DIAS’s School of Theoretical Physics.

“DIAS is home to a rich treasure trove of historical artefacts from Schrödinger’s time in Dublin. Along with lots of fascinating photographs of Schrödinger with Éamon de Valera, we have a letter to Schrödinger from Francis Crick crediting ‘What is Life?’ as an influence in his and James Watson’s discovery of DNA.”

School of Theoretical Physics director Prof Werner Nahm said: “Schrödinger’s lecture series not only brought a broad range of theoretical physics concepts to the non-expert but have also been widely credited with inspiring the discovery and decoding of DNA, our genetic building blocks.”

His legacy lives on, helped by “Schrödinger’s Cat”, which featured in his famous thought experiment that quantum physicists have long wrestled with an imagined feline that can be dead and alive at the same time.

2014 Rhind Lecture 1: Confronting Ancient Myth

The 2014 Rhind Lectures were sponsored by Rubicon Heritage Ltd which attracted an Arts and Business Scotland New Arts Sponsorship Grant. The Rhind Lectures were also gratefully supported by The Consulate General of Ireland and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Archaeologists working in Ireland occasionally face some quite unusual challenges. Those who have studied the archaeology of the celebrated Hill of Tara for instance have had to address not only the interpretative problems posed by a range of enigmatic earthworks but have also been confronted by a series of monuments and a landscape that bear an extraordinary weight of myth and legend.

The Lectures
These lectures are an exploration and their central premise is that elements of pre-Christian Celtic myth preserved in medieval Irish literature shed light on older traditions and beliefs not just in Ireland but elsewhere in Europe as well. This enquiry mainly focuses on aspects of the mythology associated with four well-known Irish archaeological landscapes: Newgrange and the Boyne Valley, and the royal sites of Rathcroghan in Co. Roscommon, Navan in Co. Armagh, and Tara in Co. Meath.

The Rhind Lecturer
John Waddellis Emeritus Professor of Archaeology in the National University of Ireland Galway. For over a decade and with the support of the Heritage Council, his research has focused on the royal site of Rathcroghan in western Ireland, a complex of archaeological monuments that figures prominently in early Irish literature. Recent publications include Foundation Myths. The beginnings of Irish archaeology (2005) Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon. Archaeological and geophysical survey in a ritual landscape (2009) and in 2010 a revised edition of The Prehistoric Archaeology of Ireland.

Some of the challenges posed by any attempt to correlate archaeology and myth are addressed and the nature of the Irish literary evidence reviewed. The archaeology of celebrated complexes like the Boyne Valley and the relevant major royal sites is examined. Their mythological associations will allow us to pursue the archaeological implications of several mythic themes, namely sacral kingship, a sovereignty goddess, solar cosmology, and the perception of an Otherworld.

Mark Lambert, PhD. Candidate

The Genetics of Hereditary Haemochromatosis:Type 1 or HFE hereditary haemochromatosis (OMIM 235200) is the most common genetic disorder in North West Europe (or populations with significant North Western European influence). The HFE gene encodes a HLA Class I type molecule. In approximately 95% of cases of HH, patients are homozygous for the HFE 845G>A mutation (commonly known as the C282Y mutation) – the remaining cases are usually the result of homozygote H63D or compound heterozygote C282Y/H63D mutations. The HFE-C282Y mutation disrupts b2-micorgloublin binding ultimately resulting in increased iron absorption (through hepcidin dysregulation). Over time this can lead to deposition of excess iron in parenchymal tissues, resulting in chronic fatigue, arthralgia, diabetes, cirrhosis, and potentially hepatic carcinoma (if left untreated). Treatment is simple and effective – regular phlebotomy reduces iron levels to normal, and elevates practically all of the associated morbidity.

Although HH would appear to be a good candidate for population screening, disease penetrance is surprisingly low at approximately 15% or so. At this level of penetrance screening populations for HFE-C282Y and HFE-H63D mutations introduces significant issues for individuals found to carry mutations, including insurance and psychological concerns. However with an estimated 24,000 haemochromatosis patients interacting with the Health Service Executive, and a significant number undetected, the need for an effective screening service is evident.

Apart from known environmental factors (e.g. alcohol intake, high iron diet), it is likely that there is significant genetic involvement. To date a number of allelic variants have been described that appear to modulate iron loading (e.g. TF, BMP2, TNF, TLR4, TMPRSS6). However, these are rare or account for approximately 30% of iron loading seen in HH patients.

The IBTS provides phlebotomy services for donor-eligible HH patients in a dedicated clinic in Stillorgan, currently dealing with approximately 600 patients. We hope to investigate these patients (along with indigenous controls) by high density exome-genotyping and next-generation sequencing, in an attempt to identify the “missing heritability” which may influence the level of disease progression in HFE-C282Y individuals.

Part of my study will also involve the investigation of the geographical distribution of HFE mutations in Ireland. Apart from one other incidence, all studies to date indicate that the C282Y mutation arose on a chromosome 6 with the same gene haplotype. We will investigate the haplotype of Irish HFE-C282Y chromosomes. The Y chromosome haplogroup R1b-M269 will also be investigated, in particular the S116 and S145 subclades, to determine if the origin of Irish mutant HFE genes originated from the Iberian Peninsula or elsewhere.

Molecular Biology of Blood Groups:I also have an interest in the molecular biology of blood groups. At the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, I am currently in the process of establishing a blood group genotyping service for patients and donors. For ante-natal patients, we are in the early stages of establishing a non-invasive pre-natal diagnosis (NIPD) service for determining fetal blood groups from cell-free fetal DNA in the maternal peripheral blood. This is very useful in the management of pregnant RhD negative women (with anti-D), who have the potential for causing haemolytic disease of the fetus or newborn (HDFN).

2012-present: PhD Candidate, Trinity College Dublin (Part time)
Thesis title :The Genetics of Haemochromatosis in Ireland

2001-2002: MSc Molecular Medicine, Trinity College Dublin
Thesis title :Low Molecular Weight Heparin inhibits transcription and expression of TLR4 in human Monocytes: A possible mechanism of heparin in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease.
Supervisor: Dr. Wendy Livingstone (Trinity College Dublin)

1991-1996: BSc (Hons) Applied Science, DIT Kevin Street/Trinity College Dublin
Thesis title: Characterisation of Clostridium difficile by PCR and RFLP
Supervisor: Dr. Maja Rupnik (from University of Ljubljana at Universitй Catholique de Louvain, Belgium)

Farrelly A, Doyle B, Murphy C, Lambert M, Crumlish J, Fitzgerald J. Quantitation of Anti-c by Continuous Flow AutoAnalyzer and by Flow Cytometry: A Comparison. Transfusion Medicine 201121(Suppl. 1): 25-26.

Lambert M, Fitzgerald J, Cavanagh G. Evaluation of Gen-Probe’s Luminex xMAP-based Blood Group Genotyping Kits using previously genotyped donor DNA. Transfusion Medicine 201121(Suppl. 1): 25.

Poole J, Thornton NM, Tilley L, Lambert M, Mulvany L, Daniels G. Novel high incidence antigen in the Diego blood group system (DISK) and clinical significance of anti-DISK. Vox Sanguinis 201099(Suppl. 1):54-55.

Murphy L, Crumlish J, Keenan M, Lambert M, Fitzgerald F. Investigation and management of a high frequency Rh antibody in a pregnant Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) patient Transfusion Medicine 200919(Suppl. 1):23.

O’Connor M, Clarke O, Lambert M, Fitzgerald J. The evaluation of BioArray Solutions BeadChip microarray system for human erythrocyte antigen genotyping of Irish blood donors. Transfusion Medicine 200919(Suppl. 1):10-11.

Lambert M. The Complexities of RhD Investigations in Ireland Lecture at Hospital Liaison Meeting, IBTS, March 2006.

Lambert M. Molecular Basis of Blood Groups. Lecture for MSc Molecular Pathology (DIT/TCD),May 2010.

Lambert M. Use of Molecular Technology in Transfusion Medicine. Presentation at IEQAS Participant’s Conference, Dublin, October 2010.

Lambert M. Novel Antibody/Antigen in the Diego Blood Group System – Anti-DISK. Lecture at TTSAB-IBTS Meeting, IBTS, Dublin, May 2011.

Lectures aren't just boring, they're Ineffective, too, study finds

Are your lectures droning on? Change it up every 10 minutes with more active teaching techniques and more students will succeed, researchers say. A new study finds that undergraduate students in classes with traditional stand-and-deliver lectures are 1.5 times more likely to fail than students in classes that use more stimulating, so-called active learning methods.

“Universities were founded in Western Europe in 1050 and lecturing has been the predominant form of teaching ever since,” says biologist Scott Freeman of the University of Washington, Seattle. But many scholars have challenged the “sage on a stage” approach to teaching science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses, arguing that engaging students with questions or group activities is more effective.

To weigh the evidence, Freeman and a group of colleagues analyzed 225 studies of undergraduate STEM teaching methods. The meta-analysis, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that teaching approaches that turned students into active participants rather than passive listeners reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-half a standard deviation. “The change in the failure rates is whopping,” Freeman says. And the exam improvement—about 6%—could, for example, “bump [a student’s] grades from a B– to a B.”

“This is a really important article—the impression I get is that it’s almost unethical to be lecturing if you have this data,” says Eric Mazur, a physicist at Harvard University who has campaigned against stale lecturing techniques for 27 years and was not involved in the work. “It’s good to see such a cohesive picture emerge from their meta-analysis—an abundance of proof that lecturing is outmoded, outdated, and inefficient.”

Although there is no single definition of active learning approaches, they include asking students to answer questions by using handheld clickers, calling on individuals or groups randomly, or having students clarify concepts to each other and reach a consensus on an issue.

Freeman says he’s started using such techniques even in large classes. “My introductory biology course has gotten up to 700 students,” he says. “For the ultimate class session—I don’t say lecture—I’m showing PowerPoint slides, but everything is a question and I use clickers and random calling. Somebody droning on for 15 minutes at a time and then doing cookbook labs isn’t interesting.” Freeman estimates that scaling up such active learning approaches could enable success for tens of thousands of students who might otherwise drop or fail STEM courses.

Despite its advantages, active learning isn’t likely to completely kill the lecture, says Noah Finkelstein, a physics professor who directs the Center for STEM Learning at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and was not involved in the study. The new study “is consistent with what the benefits of active learning are showing us,” he says. “But I don’t think there should be a monolithic stance about lecture or no lecture. There are still times when lectures will be needed, but the traditional mode of stand-and-deliver is being demonstrated as less effective at promoting student learning and preparing future teachers.”

The current study didn’t directly address the effectiveness of one new twist in the traditional lecturing format: massive open online courses that can beam talks to thousands or even millions of students. But Freeman says the U.S. Department of Education has conducted its own meta-analysis of distance learning, and it found there was no difference in being lectured at in a classroom versus through a computer screen at home. So, Freeman says: “If you’re going to get lectured at, you might as well be at home in bunny slippers.”

Aleszu Bajak

Aleszu Bajak is a freelance journalist covering science, energy, the environment, and health across the Americas.

Watch the video: Biology Lecture - 1 - Introduction to Biology (July 2022).


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