Katrina Forest named 2012 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Faculty Fellow

Katrina Forest, professor of bacteriology, and John Hawks, associate chair of anthropology, have been selected by the Institute for Biology Education as Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Faculty Fellows for 2012.

The program is part of the Foundations for Success in Undergraduate Biology project, which provides programming for first-year undergraduates in the biosciences and is funded by a four-year, $1.4 million grant from HHMI.

Forest and Hawks were chosen as fellows both for their excellence in teaching and for their dedication to passing their knowledge and skills along to the next generation of educators. These qualities are ideal for the two-tiered fellows program, which provides first-year bioscience students with an engaging two-credit course, Exploring Biology, while simultaneously training graduate student and post-doc teaching fellows in the essentials of working with first-year students.

Photo: Katrina Forest

Forest

The multiple levels of the program appeal to Forest, who points out: “I can ultimately have an impact on a larger number of first-year students by enabling a group of learned and caring postdoctoral fellows and graduate students to take up this role and carry it with them to their next position than I could by interacting only with individual undergraduates.”

Forest brings expertise in working with undergraduates. She is a member of the Biocore honors program teaching team, an advisor, and a mentor for undergraduate researchers, as well as a past co-director of the Women in Science and Engineering Residential College.

Hawks is an innovative educator and experienced mentor with a strong commitment to active learning and getting students involved in research.

“It is important to me that science be accessible, and that means that undergraduate students should be trained as creators, not merely consumers,” he says.

Hawks sees working with the Exploring Biology course as an opportunity for learning as well. “Serving as an HHMI Faculty Fellow may be the catalyst that brings the next innovation into my own teaching,” he adds.

The popular Exploring Biology course, which Forest will chair in spring 2012 and Hawks will chair next fall, fills an important gap for students who do not start their introductory biology course sequence during their first year.

It was designed to help undergraduates understand core concepts for biology literacy, find out about the breadth of research across campus, and think about possible majors and careers in the biosciences. Most importantly, the course fuels incoming students’ initial passion for science.

In addition to the fellows program and Exploring Biology course, components of the Foundations for Success in Undergraduate Biology project include the MadBiology Bootcamp pre-college program, which was launched in 2011, and a Biology Community and Learning Center, which is in the planning stages.

The HHMI-funded Foundations for Success project is one of many undergraduate, outreach, and university educator programs and initiatives at UW-Madison’s Institute for Biology Education, a unit dedicated to fostering excellence and innovation in biology education across campus, in the surrounding communities, and beyond. To get involved or find out more, contact HHMI project director Robert Ray at rray@cals.wisc.edu or visit here.