My background is in evolutionary systems biology, investigating biological questions that span the disciplines of genetics, molecular biology, computational modeling, applied mathematics, and evolutionary biology. It is an inherently interdisciplinary field, which requires communication and collaboration with scientists having different backgrounds, training, research culture, and professional language. I particularly enjoy this kind of science because it offers the opportunity to explore diverse ideas from disparate lines of investigation, with all of them connected by a rigorous reliance on data.
I approach teaching in the same spirit. One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching undergraduates is the opportunity to take them on a tour through what we have learned about biology and to help them catch my enthusiasm about the beauty of those ideas. I enjoy the challenges of communicating with students across the potential divides of different life experiences, assumptions, and languages to help their learning. And, just as with my biological research, I base my teaching on data: on what my own experiences and assessments and the research of others has shown to be effective.
I am particularly interested in designing and assessing curricular elements that address common student misconceptions about evolutionary processes. Ladder-like thinking and a teleological, deterministic view of evolutionary change emerge naturally from our human tendency to organize the world into stories. In order to encourage students to reconstruct their understanding of the world to incorporate tree thinking and random processes, we need inviting curriculum that engages students of all backgrounds and experiences.