Archive for the ‘Bard College’ tag

The first class of Citizen Scientists: Student perspective

By April 5th, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Comment

Dr. Stephanie Stockwell helps a student learn about the structure of viruses (i.e., their protein coat) through an origami activity.

Dr. Stephanie Stockwell helps a student learn about the structure of viruses (i.e., their protein coat) through an origami activity.

A few weeks back, I had an opportunity to speak with faculty at Bard College about the school’s new Citizen Science program. This week, I’ve got the inside scoop from the freshmen who took part in the intensive three-week course.

Four students in Dr. Kate Seip’s section of the course were kind enough to share some of their experiences via email. These students cited the professors’ emphasis on practical, real-world application of science knowledge, and their ability to foster in-class discussion as being instrumental for helping them understand the importance of these issues.

Cindy, a budding psychology/neuroscience major, said that Seip and the Citizen Science course have solidified her interest in neuroscience. Though she initially had reservations about spending three more weeks at Bard College during the winter, Cindy maintained an open mind. Indeed, the lack of specific course credit (or grades) seemed to “foster students’ independent quest for knowledge regarding infectious disease and science as a whole.” Her favorite aspect of the course was the laboratory rotation in which students extracted DNA, collected and grew bacteria, and learned about bacteria resistance. Getting up at 8:30am wasn’t even so bad (icy pathways and skin-cracking wind notwithstanding!).

Johannah, a psychology major and cognitive science minor, particularly enjoyed hearing about Seip’s background and why she chose to pursue scientific study. Along with other students, Johannah participated in outreach efforts in local elementary schools as part of the civic engagement portion of the course. In one outreach event, she and others made oobleck with the students.

James, a biology major, thought that the Citizen Science program included “an appropriate balance of lab work, computer modeling, and lectures/information sessions.” He felt that he “lucked out” by being assigned to Seip’s class, as she was “dedicated to the subject material and the program, while being relatively laid back.”

Though James felt that the Citizen Science course could have challenged the students a bit more, he found the lab work was particularly exiting because it was “the most interactive and hands-on part of the program, and it was just an all around fun experience.”

“[Dr. Seip] was dedicated to and passionate about her field, [which] inspired the rest of us to dedicate ourselves to the program. None of the material we studied was dry or boring, and it was easy to see the real-world significance in what we read,” James said.

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The first class of Citizen Scientists: Faculty perspective

By February 10th, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Comment 1

Bard College's first class of Citizen Scientists just completed their three week program.

Bard College's first class of Citizen Scientists just completed their three week program.

As we mentioned in an earlier post, Bard College recently created an intensive three-week program in citizen science to be taken by all freshmen each January. I was able to discuss the tremendously successful inaugural session with one of the program’s instructors, Dr. Kate Seip.

Seip, a postdoctoral researcher at The Rockefeller University, had participated in other science outreach initiatives during graduate school, and jumped at the opportunity to teach freshmen at Bard. Seip was excited to share her love of science with students from varied majors, in large part because “science is inherently interesting – it taps into a curiosity that I think we all have about why the natural world works in the ways that it does.”

Several instructors taught the group of approximately 450 incoming freshman during the three week course. Seip thoroughly enjoyed the experience of teaching in an “incredibly rich environment of like-minded scientists who prioritized rigorous undergraduate education, enjoyed mentorship and one-on-one interactions with students, and valued science literacy.”

The theme of this year’s Citizen Science program was infectious disease. Each topic of the course required students to learn a few science basics, and then house those ideas in the context of a complex society and world. Seip herself was responsible for teaching one section of 20 freshmen students who hailed from diverse majors from photography to physics. She spent 4-6 hours per day with her group, doing everything from wet-lab bench work to computer modeling to analyzing case studies and discussing biomedical ethics.

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Citizen science booster on the Colbert Report

By October 6th, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Comment

Previously on this blog, Sci4Cits blogger Elizabeth Walter reported on Bard College’s novel attempt to bring citizen science into the minds of all freshmen through an intensive, mandatory, three-week course, aptly titled Citizen Science.

Bard’s President, Leon Botstein, is a passionate believer that citizen science activities hold the key to helping people reconnect to science and better understand the world around them. The more people understand about the scientific process–and how things work–the better able they are to participate more fully in our democracy. (It’s difficult to weigh in on science policy discussions centered on synthetic biology, for example, if one is uninformed on the topic.)

Sci4Cits and Bard are working together to arm freshmen and their professors with plenty of citizen science projects and a platform for them to share their experiences. We hope you will follow their three-week journey, starting in January, and share feedback on the students’ Sci4Cits member blogs!

In the interim, check out this amusing clip of Botstein on the Colbert Report, last night!

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