New York Medical College

Community Connection - Frontiers in Physiology

High school science teacjer is schooled in laboratory technique

The American Physiological Society’s (APS) Frontiers in Physiology program is back on campus—this time in the laboratory of Akos Koller, M.D., Ph.D., professor of physiology, who is hosting a local high school science teacher for the summer. Dr. Koller welcomed to his lab Tara Goetschkes, a teacher at Walter Panas High School in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., to aid him in his research on microcirculation and microvascular biology. Together they spent the summer examining the effects of oxidative stress, in particular, hydrogen peroxide on the vasomotor tome of small veins.

Ms. Goetschkes, who is entering her tenth year of teaching biology, now called “living environment,” to tenth graders and ninth-grade honor students, was excited to be selected for the program, along with 18 other teachers across the nation. “I always try to bring real life scenarios and current events into my classroom to make things interesting. This experience will certainly help me do that,” she explained. She is planning on bringing slides and movies that she and Dr. Koller are developing, back to her classroom. There they will show her students some examples of scientific tools and techniques to add a hands-on dimension to her teaching.

Dr. Koller is just as pleased to be part of the APS program. “I fully support the idea that we need to get high school science teachers involved so they can ignite their students’ interest in science,” he said. “Although they might not understand the particular scientific details, it’s important for students to realize that one sentence in a textbook may be the result of years of work and they can question whether it is true or not,” he continued.

And that is precisely the goal of the Frontiers in Physiology program: to provide a laboratory research experience to middle and high school teachers where, by learning research techniques and observing the scientific process from start to finish, the teachers, and by extension their students, can gain a greater understanding of science.

The competitive Frontiers program provides an $8,500 stipend and includes an expense-paid one-week science teaching forum where the 19 participants can explore new and innovative research and teaching techniques intended for application in the classroom. Sharing effective education strategies that enable teachers to translate their research experience into classroom labs is an important aspect of the program. The award also pays participants’ travel expenses to attend Experimental Biology 2006 in San Francisco in April, an event that attracts nearly 10,000 scientists annually.

As a first-time research mentor in the APS program, Dr. Koller is following in the footsteps of fellow mentors Francis L. Belloni, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences, Wen-Hui Wang, M.D., professor of pharmacology, Michael S. Wolin, Ph.D., professor of physiology, Thomas H. Hintze, Ph.D. ’80, professor of physiology and John G. Edwards, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology.

Although his planned visit to Ms. Goetschkes’ classroom in the fall is not an official part of the Frontiers program, Dr. Koller said he is looking forward to it, and said he also plans to invite a few of her students back to visit his lab. Who knows—maybe one day one of these bright youngsters will want to study and work at New York Medical College.