Archive for the ‘News’ Category

News from Stephen Kielar

Although times these days are hard, we somehow manage to thrive and have moments of success during this pandemic we are all experiencing. As one of our SFSU Biology and SEPAL MS alum, Stephen Kielar has been appointed Director of Education at Call of the Sea, a non-profit organization that provides educational programs on marine sciences for people of all backgrounds (you can learn more about them on their site here). Stephen has graduated with an MS in Marine Biology and ever since has sailed the world, spreading all sorts of marine science educations with other non-profit organizations.

Even with these tough times, nothing can stop people like Stephen spreading useful information and education in the sciences to promising young minds.

Brie Tripp


Research Interests
I am interested in learning from under-tapped student populations and ways to provide equitable experiences to these individuals in undergraduate science courses. By examining gateway courses designed to weed out these very individuals, I hope to make headway in reducing the “leaky science pipeline”. Related interests involve exploring the culture of science and ways to change the hierarchical nature and power structures that exist within science.

About Me
As a California native, I grew up in the central valley. I had the opportunity to receive my bachelor’s degree in biology at CSU Stanislaus. However, I would be remiss to ignore the first college I attended, Modesto Junior College, that changed my entire career trajectory. It was there that I fell in love with teaching science through an opportunity to assist several of my professors as a teaching assistant and tutor. I experienced the joy in helping students discover the beauty in science and the grit involved in overcoming academic challenges. This experience was coupled with amazing instructors that modeled that it’s not necessarily what is taught, but how it is taught that matters. Thus, I took the next step toward professorship and pursued my PhD in biology at Portland State University, where I researched how undergraduate students and faculty thought about and understood interdisciplinary science. I was also able to teach a myriad of courses where I witnessed the inequity that exists in science: who has access to science, who gets to be a scientist, and the barriers that exist in academic science culture. I now desire to be an agent of change within this culture, and aim to shift the landscape toward more equitable and inclusive platforms. When I’m not thinking about these important topics, you can find me backpacking unexplored areas with my dog, Rosey.

Article Announcement!

A new published article from the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education has been released titled: Fear of the CURE: A Beginner’s Guide to Overcoming Barriers in Creating Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience. This article has been conducted by two SFSU researchers, Brindan Govindan and Blake Riggs, and a researcher from UC Berkeley, Sarah Pickett. They discuss how exposing undergraduate students with courses based on research development skills is crucial for students who are pursuing a STEM majors. They also discuss barriers that arise from faculty to further teach these courses such as cost, time and coming up with a research topics for their students.

Read their article here

News from Marion Wood

San Francisco State University Biology and SEPAL PALS alumna, Marion Wood has been accepted to study medicine by a great distance at Far Eastern University in the Philippines where she currently lives with her family and relatives. Marion graduated from SFSU with a BS in Physiology in December of 2019, a perfect fit for someone who wants to study medicine. She was most notable for being one of the sixteen students who pioneered the current Peer Assistants for Learning Science (PALS), a course intended to reinforce biology students with desires to teach science in the future by working with current teachers and staff in biology such as BIO 230. Marion couldn’t have been in this position without her fellow physiology partner, Jennifer Breckler.

Marion’s journey at SFSU is over, but now she will pursue her new endeavors in medicine at her home country in the Philippines.

News from Analisa Brown

SEPAL Research Alumni and previously studied her Masters in Marine Biology at SFSU, our very own Analisa Brown has accepted to pursue her doctoral studies in Science Education at UC Davis. Not only Analisa has dedicated herself in the sciences, she has also dedicated herself to further improve educational experiences for black students in biology classes at SFSU and helping undergraduates through college advising for the METRO program.

News from Carlos Damas

Congratulations to our former Bio 230 student and M.D. candidate for UCSF, Carlos Damas. You probably recognize him during the first couple of lectures in Bio 230 in the intro slides, as well for his “Top Ten List of Why Folks Should Wear Their Bio 230 Bag Tag”. It has already been ten years since Carlos once sat in a theater full of his own fellow biology students getting ready to learn introductory biology. Now he is heading towards his dream goal in helping children with medical needs in our very own city of San Francisco for UCSF. If Carlos can accomplish his dreams, so can we.

News from Dr. Sara Brownell

photo Sara Brownell

One of our esteemed SEPAL Postdoc alums – Dr. Sara Brownell – was just awarded the prestigious 2020 LGBTQ+ Educator of the Year award from a national organization. Sara is an Associate Professor of Biology at Arizona State University and has a thriving biology education research laboratory there.

Her research focuses on strategies into making undergraduate classrooms more inclusive and secure for students of all backgrounds to further help them on their career in the sciences.

You can read more about her award and herself here.

Mallory Rice


Mallory Rice

About me

I grew up between Sonoma County and very rural Mendocino County, and I loved the redwoods and rugged, rocky coastlines of northern California so much I stayed there to pursue my undergraduate degree in biology at Sonoma State University. Afterwards, I moved down to the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) to earn my PhD in Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology. While at UCSB, I pursued research investigating how human impacts to coastal ecosystems (i.e., land-based pollution, seawater warming) mediated the effects of biotic processes on the mortality and physiology of foundation species. My interest in equity in biology education really stems from my experience as a low-income, first-generation college going student, and the challenges I faced navigating higher education. Strong mentors invested in my success, and being a mentor for undergraduate students at UCSB, fostered my interest in understanding how we can 1) improve access points to biology in higher education and 2) reduce the barriers nontraditional students face to succeed in biology. 

On weekends you can find me baking new desserts and breads from scratch, cooking Italian foods, hiking, and exploring San Francisco. 

Research Interest 

I am very excited to be joining the SEPAL team. I am interested in exploring the utility of peer learning assistants and exploring tools that can be used in biology education classrooms to reduce the achievement gaps between students. I’m also interested in investigating the influence of instructor talk on student motivation and performance in biology classrooms. 

Advice for Others: 

Build your community! Build a science community to help lift you up when science becomes frustrating. Build your “non-science” community as well! Whether that is fellow artists, runners, birders to hike with, or in my case, weightlifters, find your non-science passion and build a wonderful community within that space. This helps build a healthy work-life balance in your life and provides you with really insightful perspectives that we often don’t find within academia.

News from Dara Tolchin!

We are proud to announce that SEPAL alumna, Dara Tolchin, has a new position in the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine program!

Tolchin received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a Physiology concentration from San Francisco State University then went on to receive her Master’s Degree in Biology at Drexel University.

News from Aileen Castro!

We are proud to announce that SEPAL alumna, Aileen Castro, has a new position at MyoKardia as a Research Associate!

Castro received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology with a Physiology concentration from San Francisco State University. She has a prominent history of working in the hospital and health care industry, while also demonstrating substantial research experience.