SEPAL Post-Doctoral Fellows



Kristin De Nesnera

About Me

Kristin was born in Michigan but grew up in Virginia where she attend the College of William and Mary and received her B.S. in Biology. She then moved to the west coast to join the Ph.D program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz where she studied the science and policy relevant to rocky shore habitat restoration following oil spills. She loved every minute of the time she spent doing research along the wave-swept, wind-blown coast of California but became increasingly interested in science education research through her experiences as a TA and an NSF GK-12 graduate fellow. Her desire to understand how students learn biology and how this can benefit classroom instruction really took hold after seeing positive student responses to a course she taught and redesigned to incorporate evidence-based teaching approaches. In her free time, she enjoys running, hiking, tidepooling, DIY projects, and watching Warriors basketball.

Research Project

Kristin is delighted to be joining the SEPAL team. Her research will involve looking at the impact of intuitive thinking on formal biology education. Specifically, she will explore the connection between intuitive thinking and student misconceptions in biology. She will also examine the use of intuitive language in formal science instruction. Kristin would like to obtain a faculty position where she can continue to conduct science education research and teach undergraduate biology students. She is also interested in continuing to be involved in K-12 teaching partnership programs.


Melinda Owens

About Me

Melinda grew up in Connecticut but moved to California to get her BS in Biology from Caltech. She went on to earn a PhD in Neuroscience from UCSF studying the development of orderly connections in the visual system. During her PhD, she was a lab instructor at USF, where she discovered that she loved teaching undergraduates. After graduation, she was a lecturer first at CSU East Bay, where she taught a wide range of biology courses to postbaccalaureate students, and later at Stanford, where she taught freshmen critical thinking and writing in the context of biology. As she learned about and began to incorporate research-based pedagogical practices into her classes, she became interested in how students learn biology and how to support other faculty who want to change their teaching. Outside of the classroom, Melinda likes glass flameworking and penguins. She has seen eight species of penguins in their natural habitats and would like to visit more.

Research Project

Melinda is excited to be part of the SEPAL team. She joined to study how Biology FEST and CCB FEST impact the faculty these programs support, such as what changes faculty are making in their classrooms as a result of these programs and how those changes affect student learning. She would like to obtain a faculty position where she can conduct biology education research, teach in the classroom, and support her colleagues in their pedagogical development.


Katherine Farrar

About Me: 

Katherine grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts and attended Bowdoin College in Maine where she received her B.A. in Biology with a minor in Education and was a member of the women’s soccer team. She then headed west for graduate school in biomedical sciences at UCSF where she studied the immune response to bacteria in the bloodstream. As a college lab instructor and public outreach volunteer, Katherine aimed to cultivate wonder about the living world with others by sharing her enthusiasm and curiosity for all things microscopic. Her exposure to evidence-based pedagogy through participation in SEPAL teaching workshops and graduate courses gave her the tools to think critically about how science is taught and how students learn biology. She wants to help scientists bring the practice of science into the classroom and create environments that support all students to learn. Outside of the classroom and lab, Katherine enjoys playing soccer, going to farmers markets, dabbling with watercolors, and exploring the outdoors.

Research Interests: 

Katherine is thrilled to be joining the SEPAL team. She is excited to work with the faculty communities supported by the Biology FEST and CCB FEST programs, as she is interested in how scientists become reflective teachers and what motivates them to adopt student-centered evidence-based approaches. Katherine would like to obtain an academic position where she can help scientists get smarter about their teaching.