This site visit would determine whether the funding for the center where I worked would be renewed. It was critical that we do well—for the center and for my job as education director. But as the panelists asked their questions, all I could think was, “I have multiple sclerosis.” I had been diagnosed a couple weeks prior and was in a state of shock. For months I had noticed my body behaving strangely, for example when my ankle stopped working after I walked a few kilometers. I had known what the symptoms might mean—my mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in the ’90s. But I had ignored them. I was not prepared to deal with my own battle.
As we train the next generation of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) researchers, it is imperative that we expand our recruitment to community college students. Many of these students are highly motivated and extremely talented, but they often lack exposure to cutting edge technology found at R1 institutions, much less have the opportunities to participate in original research. The Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) at the University of Southern California (USC) started a community college research internship summer program in 2013. The non-residential and residential programs combined so far have trained 60 students in the biogeosciences, with 46 of them having transferred to four-year institutions and 95% remaining in STEM fields. Their introduction to and acquired competence in several advanced technologies have further prepared these students to pursue graduate degrees and rewarding careers in research-based STEM fields.
The Marine Technology Society is a not-for-profit, international, professional association. Founded in 1963, the Society believes that the advancement of marine technology and the productive, sustainable use of the oceans depend upon the active exchange of ideas between government, industry and academia. See www.mtsociety.org. Ⓒ 2018 Marine Technology Society. This article is for personal use only, and is not to be distributed in any format.
Two years ago, we reported to Current readers about a novel ship-to-shore education and outreach program called the “Adopt-A-Microbe” (AAM) project (Orcutt et al. 2011). AAM focused on raising awareness of microscopic life—“microbes”—living in the deep marine subsurface to middle school audiences while engaging them in the science of the ocean-drilling program, both fundamental components of the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) mission. The AAM project was originally designed as an interactive set of web-based activities to be done in real-time in coordination with a research expedition, involving on-going interactions with scientists at sea.
Every summer, sixteen diverse undergraduate students from across the country participate in the Center for Dark Energy Biosphere Investigations (C-DEBI) sponsored Global Environmental Microbiology (GEM) course based at the University of Southern California (USC). The course is a four week, field-based, residential program where students gain first-hand experience in microbiological sample collection and laboratory techniques. Students finish the course having a new appreciation for the microbial world and of equal importance, collecting data and collaborating with peers. Students’ misconceptions about microbes are challenged through active participation to move their understanding beyond facts to “core concepts” (Bransford et al. 1999). This article outlines some of the conceptual changes microbiology can bring to science education as well as examines the GEM course from tenants of inquiry-based learning.