Vol 3. Issue 34 / November 8, 2004

Scripps Research Reaches Out to Local Teachers

By Jennifer Bardi

Local science educators joined graduate students and staff at The Scripps Research Institute for an early evening seminar last week highlighting educational programs for middle and high school science teachers. "Cutting-Edge Classroom: Communicating Scripps Research Teacher Programs to Students" featured short scientific lectures from program instructors and mentors, and presentations from past participants on how they incorporated experiences at Scripps Research into the classroom.

Scripps Research offers two programs for local teachers: the Science Partnership Scholars Program, a weekly lecture and lab series on current biomedical research topics developed and taught by doctoral students each spring, and the Summer Research Internship Program, in which teachers conduct research over the course of eight weeks as members of a working lab. Last week's seminar served both to recruit new teachers and to give instructors and mentors an idea of the impact the programs have had.

Research Computing's Christoph Weber and graduate student Dan Groff started the evening with a condensed version of the Scholars Program class they taught, in which teachers learn how to use VMD computer software to visualize and manipulate molecules. "This is a research-grade tool that can be applied to both the middle and high school levels," said Weber.

Teacher Todd Linke, who worked with Weber to prepare a lesson for his Mt. Miguel High School students on identifying certain macromolecules in food, noted that the software enriches his teaching. "Instead of telling students, 'hamburgers have fat' as an example," he said, "you can show them the structure of the lipid."

Also in the evening's program was a mini-lecture on virology from graduate student Lu Gan who stressed that Scholars Program lectures present research at the leading edge and are not watered down for teachers. Gan's talk was complimented by a presentation by Garfield High School teacher Camille Gibson, who spoke about a lesson plan she developed that both drew on what she learned at Scripps Research and reflected California State standards for education. Gibson, the only biology teacher at her school, also noted that the Scholars Program gave her an opportunity to meet colleagues from other schools.

The next speakers highlighted the Summer Research Internship Program. River Valley High School teacher Ann Marie Wellhouse, who interned in the lab of Associate Professor Dave Stout, reported that, in addition to learning numerous techniques and developing curriculum for her classes, she made progress at the bench. On the last day of her internship, she succeeded in crystallizing her protein. "Everyone was really happy," she said, "because we'd all gone through [the struggle] together."

Next, Senior Research Associate Dwayne Stupack spoke on his research on apoptosis (cell suicide) and the challenging, open-ended projects he likes to give teacher interns. "I love having teachers in my lab," he said, going on to joke, "Any interns not enjoying themselves will be harshly disciplined."

Remarks by University of San Diego High School biology teacher Rebecca Braden, who worked with Stupack in making Caspase 8 vector constructs for studying integrin-mediated death, concluded the evening. She noted that she now draws on her experiences at Scripps Research—the steep learning curve at the bench, the reality of failed experiments, and the collaborative approach at Scripps Research—to better prepare her students for college.

 "I now have students keep extensive lab notebooks and work in lab groups," Braden said. "Groups are given problems rather than recipes and must present their results to other groups in a seminar-style environment."

The evening left interested teachers with insight into what Scripps Research outreach programs are all about—learning opportunities and challenges at every turn, work and collaboration, and a fresh perspective on excellence in science education.


Send comments to: delasol@scripps.edu

Graduate student Dan Groff (shown here) and Research Computing's Christoph Weber started the evening with a talk for science teachers titled, "Structures of Biomolecules and Visualization of Molecules." Photo by Kevin Fung.