Elizabeth studied biology at the University of Chicago as an undergraduate. In Chicago, she began to refine her interests as she participated in different research projects. She worked with Greg Dwyer to research the effect of the nuclear polyhedrosis virus on gypsy moth populations. Later, she worked at the Field Museum in Chicago on a project related to the phylogenetic tree of lizards and snakes. She also did a senior thesis on microhabitat selection in the green iguana, as part of a study abroad program in Costa Rica. That project ultimately sparked her interest to study lizard behavior. Elizabeth pursued this interest in graduate school at the University of California, Santa Cruz. As a Ph.D. student, she spent time in Mexico doing field research on the variation of sexual signals in mesquite lizards.
In graduate school, Elizabeth taught a behavioral ecology class and served as a teaching assistant for a few others. She also was a NSF Graduate STEM Fellow in the K-12 education (GK-12) program, where she worked with local high school instructors and students. In the GK-12 program, Elizabeth designed inquiry-based learning activities to show students what real scientists do, while also showing them that science can be fun.
"The most important thing for students to learn is how to teach themselves." Elizabeth found students learned best when they can independently pursue knowledge and seek the resources they need to answer their questions. This philosophy grew from her own experiences as a student doing independent research, and her experience teaching students in graduate school. Her dad, who is a chemist and has a Ph.D., once told her that people with a Ph.D. do not really know more than other people, they just know how to teach themselves things.
Elizabeth heard about the HHMI opportunity and thought it would be a great opportunity to continue teaching science to students using innovative teaching activities (like she did in GK-12). She chose to come to the University of Minnesota for the opportunity to work with Marlene Zuk, a evolutionary biologist and behavioral ecologist here at the University. With Marlene, Elizabeth will be conducting research on sexual selection and behavior in insects. This summer, she will be working in the Active Learning Laboratory with Justin Fendos and Will Soto, helping students with data and data analysis.
Elizabeth's long-term goal is to become a faculty member at a smaller undergraduate institution, where she can continue to include undergraduates in hands-on research to enrich their education.
Research mentor: Marlene Zuk
Teaching mentor: Robin Wright