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Genetics Society of America

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The Genetics Society of America (GSA), founded in 1931, is the professional membership organization for scientific researchers and educators in the field of genetics. Our members work to advance knowledge in the basic mechanisms of inheritance, from the molecular to the population level.


Jennifer Knight
Editor Degrees: 

Ph.D. in Neuroscience, University of Michigan

About Teaching and Course Source: 

Jenny Knight is an Associate Professor in the Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder.  She has a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Michigan, where she studied eye development, and she worked on the genetic control of gastrulation in C. elegans as a postdoc.  She has been teaching undergraduates at all levels for eighteen years, ranging from freshmen-level genetics to senior-level developmental biology.  In biology education research, she led the development of the Genetics Concept Assessment (GCA) the Introductory Molecular Biology Assessment (IMCA), and the Molecular Biology Capstone Assessment, all designed to diagnose student misunderstandings and measure learning gains in typical undergraduate biology courses, as well as helping to develop an attitudes assessment, the Bio-CLASS, and a taxonomy for measuring Scientific Teaching (MIST). Her studies on the use and benefits of clicker questions in large lecture environments have shown that students learn from each other during peer discussions of questions, and that the nature of their discussions is heavily influenced by cues from instructors. Her current work focuses on understanding how students engage in complex problem solving and scientific reasoning, particularly in genetics. Dr. Knight coordinated the MCDB Science Education Initiative for 7 years (2007-2014), ran the Mountain West Regional National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Education in Biology for 5 years (2010-2015), and is actively involved in CU’s Center for STEM Learning, as well as other national organizations devoted to science education research.  Given this extensive work with faculty in improving teaching and student learning, she is eager to be involved in the mission of CourseSource.

Lisa McDonnel
Editor Degrees: 

Ph.D. in Forestry, University of British Columbia

MS. in Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa

BS. in Biology and Biotechnology, Carleton University, Ottawa

About Teaching and Course Source: 

I have primarily taught biology at the undergraduate level, with some additional experience teaching about pedagogy at the graduate level. I truly love teaching because it excites me to be a part of other’s learning, but also because teaching allows me to continue to learn about a field as a result of student questions and how research is constantly advancing. My goal as an educator is to engage as many students as possible in the learning process, helping them develop deeper understandings of the biological world. I believe that in order for students to gain such deeper understanding, they must actively construct their own knowledge onto their existing knowledge and experiences. I strive to create multiple, different opportunities in my courses for students to develop critical thinking skills, engage in scientific argumentation, and apply conceptual understanding to solve problems.

I was fortunate to have an opportunity during my post-doctoral fellowship to learn about curriculum design and have the time to develop lessons and activities to enhance student engagement and learning of various concepts in biology. However, I recognize that we don’t always have the time to devote to developing new material, as much as we may want to do so to improve the learning experiences we are providing. CourseSource provides an incredible resource to educators in a variety of disciplines. I have benefited from the articles on CourseSource many times, and being involved in CourseSource is a way for me to contribute to this valuable resource. 

Rachelle Spell
Editor Degrees: 

Ph.D. in Biology, Harvard University

B.S. in Biology, Wake Forest University

About Teaching and Course Source: 

In my fifteen years of teaching at Emory University, I have taught small graduate courses on recombination to mini-courses on evolution to Tibetan monks, but the bulk of my teaching introduces new college students to biology in large lecture courses. My goals in the classroom are to engage the students through real-life applications, connect new knowledge to basic principles, and to confront pedagogical barriers to understanding.  Learning requires that students acknowledge gaps in their knowledge while simultaneously feeling empowered to fill those gaps through active learning and study.  A well-developed curriculum helps the teacher support that precarious psychology.

In addition to my teaching, I am committed to also helping others teach.  Teaching should be collaborative, developmental, and iterative.  Publishing in CourseSource allows teachers to support each other while gaining scholarly recognition for their efforts.