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Plenary speech by HHMI professor highlights efforts of scientist-educators
Date:2/21/2011

Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologist Graham Walker leads a research group focused on science education. He aims to recreate the creativity and excitement of his research lab: doctoral and graduate students working with Walker and their MIT colleagues to identify new research questions in science education and brainstorm ways to solve them.

Walker will talk about his experiences running a science education research group and developing resources for MIT and the larger education community in a plenary talk, "Inspiration and Engagement in Education," on Monday, February 21, 2011, at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Walker is an HHMI professor, one of a small group of leading research scientists who are committed to making science more engaging to undergraduates. He started up his education research group with his HHMI professor funding in 2002, and since then it has tackled dozens of problems related to science education.

When it first started, the education research group began listing biology concepts and grouping them together to see how they were related, inspired by the Force Concept Inventory, a list of physics concepts to keep track of students' progress,. "In biology, there's about a billion concepts," Walker says. "We tried to put all these many, many concepts into hierarchical, cross-referenced piles and see which ideas arrived at the top." They came up with 18 top-level statementssuch as "DNA is the source of heritable information in a cell "and arranged sub-concepts in levels underneath them.

One of these statements, "At the molecular level, biology is based on three-dimensional interactions of complementary surfaces," particularly struck Walker. He noticed that students in his introductory biology classes were having trouble understanding the complex, three-dimensional structure of proteins, in part because they were studying proteins as two-dimensio
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Contact: Andrea Widener
widenera@hhmi.org
301-215-8807
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Source:Eurekalert

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