The Evolution of Principles
“Principles of Biology,” our Freshman major’s course, is evolving, but it has nothing to do with survival of the fittest! At the helm is Naomi Wernick, one of our newest faculty, who’s goal doesn’t stop with to leaving no student behind, but rather to “intelligently design” the course to maximize learning for all students.
Naomi was an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Bentley University for 4 years before coming to UMass. Unlike most of us who live in (at least) two worlds – teaching and research, which compete for our attention, her teaching methods and goals are actually the heart of her research! She has conducted research concerning the positioning of genomics in biology education, and is a founding member of the KBM Journal of Science Education.Naomi has incorporated active learning tools in the course. Interactive “Clicker” questions are a regular event during class, and she uses online tutorials, videos and interactive exercises for pre-class, extra credit work. Experimental Biology (the lab component) is also under major reconstruction. Last year, her students transformed a gene coding for GFP into bacteria and watched the protein glow under UV when gene expression was activated. They later purified the protein using chromatography... that’s more than many of us could have managed in our senior year Biochemistry lab! The curriculum is being modified to focus on recurrent themes in biology and the labs will be revamped further to incorporate more hands-on multi-day experiments.
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