Mary Williams

Mary became an HHMI postdoctoral teaching fellow on February 13, 2012.

As an undergraduate, Mary studied computer science at Louisiana State University. After working as a computer programmer for several years, she decided to integrate her computing skills with her deep interests in environmental science.  She shifted her focus to forest ecological research, and as a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), she earned a M.S. in Forest Ecology and Wildlife Management. She arrived at the University of Minnesota to purse a Ph.D. in Conservation Biology, spatially scaling up her research from the stand level to the landscape level. Her Ph.D. dissertation was on land cover characteristics and policy development in the karst region of southeastern Minnesota.

Mary has been interested in teaching science for many years. Before she worked on her master's degree, she volunteered to teach science to K-12 students as a Colorado Alliance for Science volunteer. To develop her skills as an educator, while working on her Ph.D., she entered the University of Minnesota's Preparing Future Faculty (PFF) program and then taught environmental science at Hamline University for two years. After graduation, Mary worked as a postdoctoral researcher on the IBIS climate model in the Department of Soil, Water and Climate at the University of Minnesota. In February of 2012, she started her HHMI postdoctoral appointment to continue her development as an environmental sciences educator.

Mary is currently working on a several projects. The first project is an active-learning lab module on the global atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) cycle, designed to teach students about the basics of carbon cycling in the biogeosphere. This was successfully piloted in the spring of 2013 and will be formally introduced into Deena Wassenberg's BIOL 1050 Our Global Environment: Science and Solutions in Fall, 2013.  Mary is also working on another lab module for this course, designed to teach students about environmental air quality issues.

Mary is also working with Anna Strain to help develop laboratory handouts to help guide self-generated research experiences for non-majors in BIOL 1010 Human Biology for non-major undergraduates. This course is currently being restructured by Jane Phillips to emphasize active learning in both the lecture and laboratory component of the course.  Mary and Anna have developed handouts to help explain how scientific research is conducted and to help guide the students develop their own inquiry-based semester experiments using laboratory equipment, as well as providing guidance with conducting data analyses and creating presentations of their research.  Mary has also been helping Annika Moe develop her project to give students an opportunity to engage in authentic research using data from Craig Packer's Snapshot Serengeti project.

Mary has also been working with Anna and former HHMI postdoc Brian Gibbens on educational research about quarter vs. semester-based academic years. They plan on presenting their results at the 2013 National Meeting for the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER), which will be held at the University of Minnesota this summer.

For her post-HHMI career, Mary is currently looking for either a professional conservation biology career position, an environmentally or ecologically-focused research position, or, a teaching position at local college or university in the Twin Cities, to teach ecology, plant biology, earth science, environmental science and conservation biology.

Mary values all the opportunities she has had to grow as an educator.

"Regardless of what my career path will follow after my HHMI postdoctoral appointment, I feel that many levels of teaching occur outside of the classroom, so I'll always have opportunities to incorporate my acquired teaching skills in all facets of my professional and private life."

Teaching Mentors: Deena Wassenburg and Jane Phillips

Back to HHMI postdocs