As I write this, I am at Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories surrounded by woods, water and, until a few hours ago, members of the CBS class of 2022. Participants from the first Nature of Life session boarded the bus back to Minneapolis earlier today tired but happy. The cycle will repeat many more times over the course of the month as we welcome hundreds of incoming students to this special place.
At Nature of Life, our students begin to make lasting friendships and learn how to think and act like scientists. By the time they walk across the stage at Mariucci four years later, as the class of 2018 did just a few months ago, they are transformed. It is a privilege to be part of that and a source of motivation to keep doing better.
Here are a few ways we are advancing the mission right now.
Making space for student-driven inquiry
Making sure our students engage fully in the scientific process in classes and labs is one of our highest priorities as a college, which is why work is underway to transform lab spaces in the Biological Sciences Center in St. Paul into active-learning labs. The new spaces are designed to empower students in our Foundations courses to ask original questions, design experiments, generate data, develop conclusions and foster more questions. It’s a critical step toward realizing our ambition to ensure that every CBS student has an authentic research experience. The new labs will debut in 2019.
Following where the evidence leads
Four years ago we launched a first-of-its-kind Department of Biology Teaching and Learning to underscore our commitment to evidence-based biology education. BTL is already attracting attention for new scholarship that highlights the role of class size in the performance gap in STEM classes and how high-stakes tests put female students at a disadvantage. Research is moving forward in a number of other areas as well. We will continue to build momentum by raising funds for an endowed chair and developing a new graduate program to train the next generation of investigators in this burgeoning field.
A new approach to increasing faculty diversity
Increasing faculty diversity is a top priority for the College, which is why I am very excited about our participation in the University’s President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. The program offers promising postdocs from groups historically underrepresented in higher education a pathway to a faculty position. We are seeking candidates for two positions, one in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biophysics, and one in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. We’re looking to identify a postdoc with an interest in molecular biophysics, and a postdoc with a background in animal behavior and population biology. Applications are due November 1. We need your help getting the word out to ensure that this is a success, so please share the posting with your networks!
Prioritizing public engagement
Sharing our science with the public is part of our mission. To do that effectively it’s critical to meet people where they are, which is why the College increased support for Market Science. The program takes hands-on science lessons to farmers markets in the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota. They answer questions and make science relatable to a broad public. In late August, Market Science will be among the groups rotating through the College of Biological Sciences booth at the Minnesota State Fair. Itasca Biological Station and Laboratories, InSciEd Out, the CBS Conservatory and Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve will each have a day to talk with the thousands of fairgoers who make their way through the University’s building. Watch for an email with dates and information!