Thursday, March 30, 2017

Finding My Passion for Science Education

When I got my PhD in Cellular and Molecular Biology over 10 years ago (yikes!), I honestly didn’t really appreciate what I was getting myself into.  I started studying hematology as a graduate student in Dr. Mitch Weiss’s laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania; the idea that trillions of mature blood cells were generated from a self-renewing adult stem cell absolutely fascinated me.  And, to think that this had to occur over an organisms’ life span intrigued me even more.  

My love of research didn’t start in graduate school, though.  While my love of science was always present, it really started when I was an undergraduate student at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a liberal arts university with a strong focus on engineering and the sciences.  I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with myself after college, but I had a unique experience working and doing research in the laboratory of Dr. Lynne Cassimeris when I was an undergraduate student, and it changed my future career path.  While I wasn’t doing research on blood, I was performing basic cell biology research dealing with cell division.  I was hooked; I realized that I could have a future career where I could answer questions that no one else had the answers to and that I could contribute to the field of science.  The educational experiences that I experienced at Lehigh really changed the way that I thought about science; I had small classes, great laboratory experiences, and great professors.  The understanding that science was not just memorizing facts, but being able to discover new things made me want to continue performing research.


I remembered those educational experiences when I got to graduate school.  My program was in the medical school at UPenn, so I had no teaching responsibilities.  But, Mitch encouraged me to mentor a few undergraduate and high school students in the laboratory, and it reminded me of the experience that I had a few years before that inspired me to be a scientist- working closely with students performing research.  I did strike out over a few summers as a teaching assistant, but my time in graduate school was like most people; working at the bench and doing research.


Fast forward to my postdoctoral work in Dr. David Traver’s laboratory at University of California, San Diego.  I switched over from doing mouse hematopoiesis to studying blood development in zebrafish, as well as trading in cold winters for the sun and sand of California.  Around this time I was trying to sort out exactly what I wanted to do with my scientific career.  In David’s laboratory, I got to perform research and was awarded a K01 mentored career development grant from the NIH, but I also got to directly mentor several students. David also encouraged me to teach classes at UCSD and to take pedagogical classes offered at UCSD to become an effective science teacher.  Importantly, my time in David’s laboratory was the best experience that I had as a developing scientist.  It was a collaborative, friendly atmosphere and David encouraged us to collaborate with other scientists outside of our group, which changed my whole perspective of how important the social aspect of science could be. Working together with my colleagues in the laboratory (and at locations around the world) to solve complex problems again reminded me of my undergraduate days of being excited to discover something new.  It made me want to show up every morning excited to achieve and discover something.  Another formative moment was having Dr. Dawne Page, a professor and the chair of biology at Point Loma Nazarene, a small liberal arts university in San Diego, in David’s laboratory for her sabbatical.  The more that I interacted with my mentees, talked with Dawne and her undergraduate students, and taught class, I realized that I didn’t just want to do research in the laboratory; I wanted to work with students and teach in the classroom, inspiring the next generation of students.  Basically, I wanted to be the kind of mentor that I had in college.

So, how did I achieve this goal?  Well, I shifted my job search dramatically.  Instead of applying to large research institutions, I shifted my focus to liberal arts colleges and universities where I could teach and still have a laboratory to do research with students.  How did it end up?  Great!  I’m now an Assistant Professor at California State University in Chico, California teaching developmental biology and immunology.  Chico is a great place to be; it’s a beautiful area of California, and Chico State, a Hispanic-serving institution that serves the largely rural area of Northern California, aims to give a high quality liberal arts education to its students. I have an independent laboratory with excited and motivated undergraduate and Master’s students, and our program has a growing Cell and Molecular Biology program.  The best part?  Every class that we teach has a laboratory component and I have integrated my research into the classroom, exposing students to real life research.  If you went to a large state university, I doubt you had that experience.  And honestly, how can we expect to teach scientific literacy without actually performing science in the classroom?

In essence, I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do by performing research and inspiring students to become future scientists.  And while I’m not doing the same type or amount of research the way that I did in graduate school or as a postdoctoral fellow, I’m contributing to the field in another way; by inspiring the hematology researchers of the future.  I’m trying to do a good job; let me know when you have one of my students in your graduate program or as a postdoctoral fellow!

If you’re a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow in a similar situation as I was there are definitely concrete steps that you can take now to prepare you for a more education-based career.  My next post will tell you how to prepare yourself, put together your CV, write your research and teaching statements, and prepare for your interview.  It’s a very different process to what your research-based colleagues and PIs are going to tell you!   



David Stachura, PhD
ISEH Publications Committee Member

Assistant Professor
Department of Biological Sciences
California State University

Chicodstachura@csuchico.edu
myweb.csuchico.edu/~dstachura/Stachura_Laboratory
https://www.facebook.com/StachuraZebrafishLab/

11 comments:

  1. Thanks Dave for this perspective on this career track!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a great inspiring article.I am pretty much pleased with your good work.You put really very helpful information. Keep it up. Keep blogging. Looking to reading your next post
    cheap web hosting
    Linux Reseller Web Hosting Provider in India
    Windows Reseller Hosting Service Provider in India
    Shared Linux Web Hosting

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for some other informative website. The place else may just I get that kind of information written in such a perfect method? I have a venture that I am simply now running on, and I’ve been at the glance out for such info.moving checklist app

    ReplyDelete
  5. Superb. I really enjoyed very much with this article here. Really it is an amazing article I had ever read. I hope it will help a lot for all. Thank you so much for this amazing posts and please keep update like this excellent article.thank you for sharing such a great blog with us. expecting for your..
    US Consumer Emails

    ReplyDelete
  6. There are about 5 institutions of higher learning that I can advise you to choose for your health-related course. The private universities and colleges do not have a strong ground here. kenyan mba

    ReplyDelete
  7. Adorable kids club is a website that provides a well-guarded and interactive platform for the kids who might be too young and impressionable for websites like Facebook. This website is a safe haven for your kids, to grow, connect and nurture in a protected and kidfriendly environment
    kids social network

    ReplyDelete
  8. Superb. I really enjoyed very much with this article here. Really it is an amazing article I had ever read. I hope it will help a lot for all. Thank you so much for this amazing posts and please keep update like this excellent article.thank you for sharing such a great blog with us. expecting for your..
    voyance par telephone


    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for some other informative website. The place else may just I get that kind of information written in such a perfect method? I have a venture that I am simply now running on, and I’ve been at the glance out for such info..voyance en direct


    ReplyDelete
  10. Every tour is great if you have wonderful and amazing friends plus if you are having good food with you too. Good food and amazing friends make the tour more wonderful..Supplement

    ReplyDelete
  11. My name is Lynda Cransler from USA .I am here to give a testimony on how I
    got my ex Husband back. My ex left me for no reason 3 years ago. He moved
    in with another woman, I felt like killing myself, my life became very
    bitter and sorrowful. Then a friend of mine told me about a great spell
    caster that is very good to help my problem and, my friend also said that
    the spell caster heal her HIV/AIDS, make her Aunt to give birth to a child
    after ten years of marriage. I didn't believe it because I've worked with
    so many of them and it didn't work. He begged me further so I decided to
    try this great spell caster called Dr Solution. I still didn't believe. but
    I used the spell he gave me and the next day I received a call from my
    darling Husband Thomas last week. He apologized and came back to me. He
    even gave me some money as a means of compensating me. I'm very happy now
    thank you Dr. For any problem you can reach the Dr Solution via email:spellcaster.powercaster@gmail.com is 100%
    guaranteed and no matter what the problem is,the spell works for the power
    behind it is very powerful and secured, no harm and very easy, And in this
    work they are rules that can never be violated: {1} Do not tell anybody
    about the spell until you have seen the result {2} Do not work with them
    and the same time work with another spell caster it is either you make a
    choice {3} Do not come for jokes or take spell casting for granted. You
    need solution in your family, Marriage, business, Love charm for man and
    woman you need Favor from everyone or whatever it maybe, you need quick
    money just contact the great spell caster. But before he start with the
    casting of the spell this information will be needed, YOUR NAME:...........
    YOUR COUNTRY:.............. AGE: ........ AND YOUR REQUEST:........... Send
    it to spellcaster.powercaster@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete