Archive for the ‘News’ Category

SFSU SEPAL and Biology Alumnus Professor to receive Outstanding Award !

Jeff Schinske obtained his MS in Marine Biology (2007) while here at SFSU. He too was working within the Routman Lab here at SFSU. He was selected to be the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Undergraduate Science Teaching Award from the Society for College Science Teaching. Recipients are selected based on a set criteria. That criteria is premised on teaching excellence, scholarship, and service. Also, they must have been involved with actively instructing science for the past 5 years. Teaching excellence is determined on teaching philosophy and how effective. Scholarship is more looking at publications in science education, presentations, grants received, and other forms of scholarship. Finally looking at service it is geared toward the service provided to science education, students, other instructors, and educational organizations.

            This award is very important. Since, it is the 25th year in which the award was first presented. However it is the fact that this is the first time in which this award is to be awarded to a community college science instructor. All the people who were previously awarded this prize were hailing from 4-year college and universities. He will be accepting this award at the upcoming 2018 National Science Teachers Association conference in Atlanta this coming week.

Designing an NGSS Learning Pathway How informal institutions can help teachers implement the NGSS

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) workshops at California Academy of Sciences is something which our very own SEPAL Alum, MS in Marine Biology Kathryn Danielson helped formulate. Clea Matson ( Senior Associate of Teacher Professional Development) and Kathryn Danielson worked along one another to help write this article. The article is regarding the creation of workshops to help facilitate a smooth transition to the new science standards. This initiative seeks to emphasize critical thinking and meaning-making. Over 1,000 Bay Area instructors have partaken in this workshop. They are now sharing what insight they have gained nationwide For the article was published in Science and Children, which is an award-winning peer-reviewed journal for preK-5 science teachers.

Check out the article here….

Dispelling the Myth that Scientist don’t care about teaching

Scientist at times can be seen as more focused on research, at the expense of their students. However, the Biology department here is taking a stance on providing Biology instructors an area in which they can improve the way they teach. In doing this Professor of Biology Kimberly Tanner and her colleagues are paving the way for this to occur. It began with a five-day summer training institute, as the time progressed 89% of instructors within the Biology department attended at least one workshop. While 83% attended follow-up programs.  The individuals who went through the program experienced more than 100 hours on training.


The training was centered on a few techniques for example “active learning.” This would provide the students with the proper tools for controlling how they learn. In order to determine how efficient this program is, a technique of analyzing recordings of classroom noise/student participation was utilized. This research helped debunk a myth regarding the correlation among how much time faculty devote to their teaching, and how this hinders their research. It was discovered that only 6% of study participants believed this, on the other hand 30% believed the opposite. The opposite side of the spectrum thought it positively influenced their research. Professor Tanner attributes this to a shift in a more cohesive sense of community due to the trainings provided.

Techniques like this engage students which is vital to them. Several students tend to leave Biology. Professor Tanner states, “And they leave based on personal demographics — more women leave, more students of color leave. These strategies will help us retain more of those students.” This should seek to have other universities follow suit.


SEPAL MS Alum Briana McCarthy

Briana McCarthy a current tenure-track instructor at Los Medanos College. Briana is discussing her mission of aiding her students. For she is ensuring they leave with a better understanding of the world around them. She discovered her passion for teaching during her Graduate school experience. It was the experience she obtained there; by interacting with students, and observing how students interacted with one another.

McCarthy was an MS alum here at San Francisco State University. She has gone on to do tremendous work at her local community college. Briana selected a community college as a result of her upbringing. She was comforted via the sense of community. She enjoys utilizing creativity for her curriculum, and overall we can see she is passionate about being the best possible instructor she can.

Thank you for your work, keep doing it…

To read the article further click here.


SEPAL Alumna awarded prestigious NIH Career in Reproductive Biology Grant

Brenda Cisneros is a graduate from San Francisco State University. Here, she obtained both her BS Physiology and MS Physiology and Behavioral Biology, is now being coveted for a distinguished award. Now, she is pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan. In doing this, she will be bestowed with the Career Training in Reproductive Biology Grant. This grant seeks to establish a broad education of Reproductive Biology. The research areas vary from Mathematics, Physiology, Cell Biology, and Genetics. We here at SEPAL/Biology Department are so delighted to have one of our own receive a award of this caliber.

While here at San Francisco State University, she was under the wing of Dr. Megumi Fuse and was also a SEPAL Spectrum Scientist. Brenda is a member of SFSU SACNAS and was part of the first BIO 230 class our SEPAL Director, Kimberly Tanner, instructed.

CONGRATULATIONS and keep up the great work!



New SEPAL Research Publication on Faculty Professional Development in CBE: Life Sciences Education

Check out SEPAL’s lastest research publication “Collectively Improving Our Teaching: Attempting Biology Department–wide Professional Development in Scientific Teaching” here.

Fantastic new video about SEPAL by Zahur-Saleh Subedar!

Check out this fantastic new video by SEPAL undergraduate Zahur-Saleh Subedar about the exciting work we do here at SEPAL!


SFSU Eden Staff Appreciation Award for Trisha DeVera

   Congratulations to Trisha DeVera, SEPAL’s Program Administrator and Resource Center Manager, on receiving the 2017 SFSU Eden Staff Award!

Interactive Whiteboards by PolyVision











SEPAL Research Team Trip to Escape Room

Tanner to Receive Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education

ANNUAL Meeting Preview Honors and Awards


  Kimberly D. Tanner

Tanner to Receive Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education

Kimberly D. Tanner, a professor in the Biology Department at San Francisco State University, will receive the Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education, for her tireless work to build local and national capacity for evidence-based teaching and biology education research.

A major thrust of Tanner’s research aims to understand the development of expertise in biology. As Erin Dolan, one of her nominators, noted, Tanner is breaking new ground with this work—drawing from diverse, relevant knowledge bases such as physics education research and cognitive science to understand how individuals at various stages of their biology training think about fundamental ideas in the discipline.

Tanner observes, “We train scientists to be outstanding researchers and then we parachute them into college and university classrooms with no training in how to effectively communicate their expertise to others.” As one consequence, the majority of students who are initially enthusiastic about science leave the field, “with disproportionate losses for women, students of color, and first-generation college- going students. Yet, we have extensive research literature from science education, psychology, and more recently discipline-based education research that if science faculty used more interactive teaching methods, we could both improve learning and prevent this loss of talent.”

At her talk in Philadelphia Tanner will discuss a new technological innovation—the Decibel Analysis for Research in Teaching tool (DART). “It’s like a Fitbit tool for faculty,” says Tanner. “If I lectured 95% of last class session, can I innovate such that I get that number down to 90% next class session?” To positively change the experience of science students, “we need large numbers of science faculty to make

small changes in their teaching, reducing the amount of lecture and increasing the amount of time that students have to talk, think, and write in class with their colleagues about the science they are learning…. Through our DART tool, we hope to support faculty in monitoring and iteratively shifting how they spend time in class with students.”

Tanner is influenced professionally by being a neuroscientist and a first-generation college student. She sees everything about evidence- based teaching and learning through the lens of neuroscience. She notes that teaching and learning are fundamentally about driving physical changes in the brain that encode long-term memories, which are then able to be retrieved in relevant situations. “If anyone should understand why we need to teach differently and move beyond only lecture approaches—and not just in classrooms, but also at conferences and in seminars—it should be scientists, especially biologists!” Tanner adds. She also sees higher education through the lens of an outsider, noting that for too long, success in school and science has depended on factors deeply rooted in aspects of culture that are tied to class, gender, and home community.

In describing her goals, Tanner states, “Through evidence-based teaching, I strive to make all science classrooms more equitable, fair, and inclusive of students from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. If we as scientists want to solve the complex problems that
are facing us in the natural world…we must make our learning environments purposefully inclusive so as to retain the incredible talent from diverse communities that we are currently losing from our scientific disciplines at an alarming rate.”

Tanner will accept the award on December 4 at the ASCB|EMBO Meeting in Philadelphia. n

—Thea Clarke