- PhD Conservation Biology, University of Minnesota, 1999: Anuran response to habitat degradation in the neotropics
- BS Biological Sciences (magna cum laude), North Carolina State University, 1992
Strategies for effective teaching of evolution and ecology; Science (especially biology) for the non-scientist; Using sex to teach biology; Inclusivity in the sciences; In-class assessment techniques; Technology in the classroom
Awards and honors
- H.T. Morse-Alumni Distinguished Teaching Professor Award, 2014
- GLBTA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Ally Community, University of Minnesota) Breaking the Silence Award, 2014.
- President’s Distinguished Faculty Mentoring Program, University of Minnesota, 2010-current.
- GLBTA (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Ally Community, University of Minnesota) Faculty Leadership Award, 2012.
- Office of Information Technology (University of Minnesota) Faculty Fellow, 2010-2011.
- Dagley-Kirkwood Undergraduate Education Award, College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota, 2009.
I am passionate about both biology and biology-education research. My research interests have been, and continue to be, broad in scope and mission. I’ve published papers on teaching with technology, barriers to teaching and learning evolution, and gender disparities in the sciences. I have also published articles on strategies for engaging students in large lectures, including work with the Active Learning Classrooms project at the University of Minnesota. Current work involves identifying which elements of course-based research experiences (CUREs) are key to promoting scientific literacy; identifying and countering barriers to learning science; evolution education in Galápagos; and facilitating meaningful group interactions in the large-lecture setting.
Teaching biology should be easy. We are all born scientists. We emerge with limitless curiosity and an insatiable demand to know “what” and “why.” But the students I encounter have experienced a lot since they were infants, and some of their experiences have made them cynical, less inquisitive, and afraid of ambiguity. My challenge, and therefore my philosophy of teaching, is to re-instill love of the unknown, promote confidence in addressing ambiguity, and foster delight in discovery. At the same time, I need to help students understand the personal relevance of natural science, and learn some fundamentals of modern biology. I also want them to realize that science is a social endeavor, directed by the questions we ask and guided by contemporary culture.
Favorite teaching innovation or approach
My philosophy of teaching is exemplified by the development and delivery of the introductory biology course, “Evolution and Biology of Sex.” Essentially, I am exploiting what may be the topic of greatest universal interest — sex — to teach about evolution, the process of science, and the personal dimension of scientific research. My job is easier because students come to the class with many questions, and when it comes to the evolution of human mating and reproductive biology, there are many unknowns. Each class period is structured around a hook (“what the heck is going on?”) to engage the students, a mini-lecture or two (for content delivery), small-group activities and discussion (to reinforce content), and whole-group synthesis (for a “big picture” view of the topic).
Sadie Hebert (HHMI post-doctoral fellow) and I have developed a multi-week laboratory exercise that engages the sex students in meaningful research that is sexy and authentic, while being inexpensive and logistically manageable. Specifically, students discuss contemporary research on sex in the bean beetle, Callosobruchus maculatus, and then develop and test hypotheses related to bean-beetle sex.
- Biology of the Galápagos (study abroad experience): Biology 4950 (S’08, S’09, S’10, S’11, S’12, S’13)
- Tropical Reef Ecology (study abroad experience): Biology 4950 (J-term ’09, ’11, ‘13)
- Evolution in Galápagos: Then and Now (visiting scholar, hosted by the University of Brazil in Natal, Brazil): S’11
- Issues in Global Change Ecology (summer research seminar series/S’08, S’09)
- Evolution and Biology of Sex (non-majors introductory biology): Biology 1001 (F’07, F’08, Sp’09, F’09, Sp10, F’10, Sp11, Sp12, F’12, Sp13, F’13)
- SEAM seminar (for individuals from underrepresented groups throughout the Life Sciences): Biology 1905—Science, Sex and Society: How do we know what we know about sex? (F’09, F’10)
- SEAM seminar (for individuals from underrepresented groups in the College of Biological Sciences): Biology 1905—Preparation for graduate programs in science and professional school (F’07)
- Evolutionary & Ecological Perspectives (mixed-majors introductory biology): Biology 1001 (F’02, Sp’03, F’03, Sp’04, F’04, Sp’05, F’05, F’06)
- General Zoology: Biology 2012 (Sp’02, Sp’03, Sp’04, Sp’05, Sp’06, Sp’07, Sp’11, Sp’12)
- Field Zoology: Biology 2812 (S’11)
- Biology, Society, and the Environment: Biology 1105 (Sp’04, F’04, Sp’05, F’05, Sp’06, F’06, Sp’07, Sp’08, Sp’09, Sp10)
- Animal Diversity: Biology 2005 (Sp’03 through F’07, F’10)
- Teaching in the Biology Labs: Biology 4201 (F’05, F’06, F’07, F’10)
- Preparing Future Faculty: GRAD 8101 (Sp’07)
- Freshman seminar on Evolution of Sex: Biology 1905 (F’03, F’04)
- The Nature of Life (CBS Freshman Orientation): Biology 1805 (Summer 2003 through Summer 2009, Summer 2012, Summer 2014)
(*denote undergraduate coauthors)
Cotner, S. and Nelson, P. Evolution and Biology of Sex (lab manual). 2014. Bluedoor: Minnesota.
Moore, R. and Cotner, S. 2013. Understanding Galápagos—What You’ll See and What It Means, McGraw-Hill: New York, NY. (Review from Reports of the National Center for Science Education)
Cotner, S., *Kempnich, M. and *Kleinschmidt, J. 2012, Video Podcasts Add Life to General Zoology, in Duin, Nater, and Anklesauria, eds, Cultivating Change in the Academy-- 50+ Stories from the Digital Frontlines, University of Minnesota, open-source ebook.
Cotner, S. and Moore, R. 2011. Arguing for evolution: an encyclopedia for understanding science. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT.
Moore, R., Decker, M.D. and Cotner, S. 2009. No prospect of an end: a chronology of the evolution-creationism controversy. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT.
Tiffany Pan*, Kelsey Gladen*, Elizabeth C. Duncan*, Sehoya Cotner, James B. Cotner, Daniel C. McEwen, and Brian D. Wisenden. Bold, Sedentary Fathead Minnow Have More Parasites. Zebrafish Volume 13, Number 4, 2016
Cotner, Sehoya, Hebert, Sadie. 2016. Bean Beetles Make Biology Research Sexy. The American Biology Teacher VOLUME. 78, NO. 3, MARCH 2016
Cotner, Sehoya, D. Christopher Brooks, and Randy Moore. 2014. Science and society: Evolution and student voting patterns. Reports of the National Center for Science Education 34 (6): 1.1-1.9
*Schauer, Cotner, and Moore, Teaching evolution to students with compromised backgrounds and confidence about evolution—is it possible? in press at The American Biology Teacher.
Ratcliff, *Raney, *Westreich and Cotner, A novel laboratory activity for teaching about the evolution of multicellularity, in press at The American Biology Teacher.
Cotner, *Loper, Walker and Brooks, D. 2013. It’s Not You, It’s the Room (or, Are the High-Tech, Active Learning Classrooms Worth It?), Journal of College Science Teaching 42(6), 82-88.
Moore, R. and Cotner, S. 2013. Evolution and Creationism in America’s Biology Classrooms, BioLogos Forum, online
Cotner, S. & Gallup Jr, G.G., 2011, Introductory Biology Labs…They Just Aren’t Sexy Enough!, Bioscience Education, 18, p. 5.
Walker, J.D., Cotner, S., *Beermann, N. & Walker, J.D., 2011. Vodcasts and Captures: Using Multimedia to Improve Student Learning in Introductory Biology, Journal of Media and Hypermedia.
Moore, R., Brooks, D.C. & Cotner, S., 2011, The Relation of High School Biology Courses & Students' Religious Beliefs to College Students' Knowledge of Evolution, The American Biology Teacher, 73(4), pp. 222-6.
Cotner, S., *Ballen, C., Brooks, D.C. and R. Moore. 2011. “Instructor Gender and Student Confidence in the Sciences: A Need for More Role Models?” Journal of College Science Teaching 40(5), pp. 96-101.
*Uyehara, I.K., T. Gamble, and S. Cotner. 2010. “The presence of ranavirus in anuran population at Itasca State Park, Minnesota, USA.” Herpetological Review 41(2): 177-179.
Cotner, S., Brooks, D.C., and R. Moore. 2010. “Is the age of the earth one of our “sorest troubles”? Students’ perceptions about deep time affect their acceptance of evolutionary theory. Evolution 64(3): 858-864.
Recent presentations, invited seminars and workshops
Active Learning Workshop (invited to co-lead, with Susan Wick): “Active-Learning Classrooms,” St Norbert College, WI, June 2014.
Department of Biology, New Mexico State University seminar speaker (invited): “Are the Active-Learning Classrooms Worth the Investment? March 2014.
Minnesota Atheists Darwin Day seminar (invited): “Are humans still evolving?” February 2014.
National Association of Biology Teachers Annual Meeting: “Using Sex and Live Organisms to Engage Non-Majors Biology Students,” November 2013.
Campus Atheists and Secular Humanists seminar (invited): “Are Humans Still Evolving?” November 2013.
College of Biological Sciences Bio-Diversity Brown-Bag Series: “What’s Diversity Got to Do with Teaching Biology?,” November 2013.
University of Minnesota’s Academy of Distinguished Teachers Fall Meeting: “Active Learning Classrooms,” October 2013.
National Forum on Improving Undergraduate Education Through Active Learning Spaces: “Learning to Love the New Active-Learning Classrooms,” August 2013.
Office of Equity and Diversity (U of Minnesota) Workshop leader (invited): “Diversity in the Curriculum,” Fall 2011 and Spring 2013
Minnesota Atheists Darwin Day seminar (invited): “Fun Myths about Evolution, Exposed,” February 2013.
College of Veterinary Medicine seminar (invited): “Learning to Love the New Active-Learning Classrooms,” November 2012.
National Association of Biology Teachers Annual Meeting: “Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science Using the Primary Literature,” November 2012.
National Association of Biology Teachers Annual Meeting: “Why Do College Students Know About Sex? Does It Matter?,” November 2012.
National Association of Biology Teachers Annual Meeting: “Introductory Biology: It’s Just Not Sexy Enough,” October 2011.
National Association of Biology Teachers Annual Meeting: “Instructor Gender and Student Confidence in Biology,” October 2011.
- 2013-Current Director, Marine Biology Minor, College of Biological Science (and inter-collegiate), University of Minnesota
- 2002-Current Teaching Associate Professor, Biology Program, College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota
- 1999-2001 Instructor, Department of Biology, The Pennsylvania State University (University Park)
- Professional service
- Professional Development Committee Member, National Association of Biology Teachers, current.
- Faculty advisor, Marine Biology Club, ongoing.
- Chair, Marine Biology Minor Advisory Committee, ongoing.
- College of Biological Sciences Diversity Collaborative, faculty representative, ongoing.
National Science Foundation, "Integrated Science Education for Discovery in Introductory Biology (InSciED-In,” with Robin Wright (PI) and Catherine Kirkpatrick (co-PI), 1,900,000.00.