It’s interesting to see how a postdoctoral associate’s work at Georgia State can lead them on a particular path especially when they are laser-focused on their research. In this instance, we follow the footsteps of Melanie Peffer, Ph.D. After graduating with a Ph.D. in molecular biology, Peffer spent time with Maggie Renken, Ph.D. at the College of Education & Human Development as a research assistant from 2014-2016.
“Her postdoctoral research focused on how people learn biology and how this learning is affected by personal epistemologies,” Renken said. “While at Georgia State she further developed the Science Classroom Inquiry (SCI) simulations, and she, myself and colleagues co-authored a monograph for the Association for Educational Communication and Technology (AECT) Books and Briefs Series titled “Simulations as Scaffolds for Science.”
Peffer adds, “Dr. Renken took a big risk having me come in. I remember sitting in with Dr. Amy Lederberg’s and Dr. Renken’s classes and I also got to teach. It was a great opportunity to get professional development and a little bit of mentoring from Dr. Renken as well as how to teach online. And that’s something that’s become enormously useful since I’ve gone forward with my career, especially now during this pandemic. I was teaching this semester and I had to move everything online and I knew what to do already.”
Fast forward to 2020 and Peffer is now a faculty member at the University of Colorado (CU). Her research focus has led her to publish a book titled “Biology Everywhere.” The book hopes to impart science literacy in a way that’s accessible. You can learn more about the book in an interview with Peffer in Colorado’s Arts and Science Magazine where she discusses her views on teaching biology. In the interview, she stresses the importance for students to study in the STEM fields.
In a Zoom interview from Peffer’s home in Greeley, Colorado, she states, “I think one of the most important things we should do as educators right now is to empower students to engage with science and empower the general public to engage with science. Anybody can pull out a smartphone and Google something and look something up that’s related to science or biology. The question is how will we, as educators, facilitate developing the confidence and the curiosity so that people are willing to do that and are also willing to engage in the big issues in today’s society whether it’s genetic testing, the pandemic, genetically modified foods, conservation issues… There are a lot of biological decisions that we make every day and that’s kind of at the heart of “Biology Everywhere.” Where do we see biology in our day-to-day lives?”
“It is very important to the U.S. economy and the health of its people for everyone to have the confidence and skillset to engage with the big science issues we are facing as a society,” she says.
We would love to follow more paths of our doctoral students. Where are you today? How has your research focus created the path you followed in your career? Let us know by filling out this form.