the research and technology issue

How Biologists ‘Cell’ Education

The mitochondria is, obviously, the powerhouse of the cell. Plants go through photosynthesis to power themselves, duh. But how did we learn those two biological concepts? Is there a different way that we could have learned them that would have been more beneficial?

Jennifer Momsen, an assistant professor at North Dakota State, tries to answer these questions and more in her biological education research. She constantly tries to learn how undergraduate college students best learn biology. Momsen said she wants to be able to create the best possible classroom learning environment while seeing how effective different forms of feedback are.

Momsen’s goal is to figure out what students and teachers need to do in order for the student to leave the course being biologically literate. She wants her students, and other biology undergrads, to take the principles they learned in an introductory biology class and apply them to daily life, from climate change to medical innovations.

Despite that she has been working on this research for eight years, she shows no signs of slowing down. Momsen said she could keep going on forever because students and technology are always changing. No two years are the same.

When asked if the recent changes have impacted her research, Momsen stated technology only changes how students think about biology. Nowadays, educators do not really need to teach so many facts since students can Google definitions in just a few short seconds.

Despite the fact that undergraduate students can Google definitions and terms, it’s not as easy to search the way to approach problems. It’s simply not possible to just search how to reason and approach biological problems, that is what Momsen focuses on in her classes. She fully embraces technology in the classroom and focuses on student rationale and breaking wrong reasoning patterns.

There is a stark contrast from the typical lecture that is used on so many general classes. Momsen works to make an inclusive classroom where students collaborate on solving complex problems instead of just sitting in an auditorium chair taking notes on subjects.

In regard to Momsen’s research, she said her favorite part is getting to do what she loves all the time. Her life revolves around asking questions and answering them. However, she dislikes that she can’t do everything at once because she is only one person who only has so much time.

Other professors are conducting similar research on topics from physics to mathematics. They all have a common goal of figuring out how undergraduates learn best in different STEM fields, so NDSU can give students the best opportunities to reach their learning potential.

With professors like Momsen dedicated to giving students the best education possible, it definitely paints an optimistic future for our university.

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