Fellow Brian Gibbens

Hired in April, 2011, Brian Gibbens was the first of eight postdoctoral teaching fellows recruited for the HHMI science education program.

A Minnesota native, he earned his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the College of Biological Sciences. As an undergraduate he majored in Genetics, Cell Biology and Development. And as a graduate student, he completed the Molecular, Cellular, Developmental Biology and Genetics (MCDB&G) program. His thesis research, conducted in the laboratory of Laura Ranum, professor of genetics, cell biology and development, focused on a genetic mutation common to several inherited neurodegenerative diseases, including Huntington’s Disease, Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 8, and Myotonic Dystrophy.

As a teaching fellow, Brian was responsible for designing lab modules and course curricula to get non-major students involved in science and research.

“I applied for this position because I have always wanted to be a teacher and was thrilled to find an opportunity to do research as well as teach.”

Brian’s first priority was to design modules and coursework for non-majors to get them involved in hands-on, discovery-based authentic research.

“My job is to give them a taste of what it is like to be a real scientist and to create experiences that will make learning about science fun,” Brian says.

Brian designed the Metagenomic Modules, which were incorporated into the BIOL 1009 General Biology lab. As an HHMI postdoc, Brian worked in Professor Michael Sadowsky's lab on the Minnesota Mississippi Metagenomics Project (M3P). He adapted this research for the modules, allowing students to learn about the basic steps in a metagenomics project and apply them in a lab.

“I'm trying to bring the new science of metagenomics into the classroom while it’s still new. Students will learn about metagenomics and its applications and get to experiment with some real samples. Because the samples have not previously been tested, students may make real discoveries about the Mississippi metagenome.

After his HHMI appointed ended, Brian joined the faculty of the College of Biological Science. Currently, Brian is teaching two Foundations of Biology courses (BIOL 2002 and BIOL 2003) as a teaching assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. 

Brian continues to help bring metagenomics to the classroom. He is the key facilitator for a summer metagenomics workshop for high school teachers, which will provide training and resources participating teach to teach metagenomics in their high school classroom.

Research relating to these metagenomics modules was recently accepted for a JMBE curriculum publication entitled “Exploring Metagenomics in the Laboratory of an Introductory Biology Course” to be published in May 2015.

Teaching Mentor: Robin Wright and Mark Decker

Research Mentor: Michael Sadowsky

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