New York Medical College

Community Connection - Frontiers in Physiology

Science teacher spends summer in physiology

If the word frontier can be defined as the limit of knowledge, or the most advanced achievement in a particular field, then it stands to reason why John G. Edwards, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology, is proud to be a part of “Frontiers in Physiology.” For the second consecutive summer, he opened up his laboratory to a local science teacher and served as a research mentor in the American Physiological Society’s (APS) “Frontiers in Physiology,” a professional development program that pairs middle and high school life sciences teachers nationwide with APS research mentors in nearby laboratories.

The program’s objective is to integrate inquiry, equity and use of the Internet to enhance middle and high school science education. Dr. Edwards wholeheartedly supports this goal. “I got involved with this APS program because I think it is a very worthwhile one. It’s important for science teachers at all levels to be able to bring their outside experiences into the classroom in a meaningful way,” said Dr. Edwards. “Plus, it’s always interesting and exciting to have a summer guest.”

This year’s summer visitor was Adrienne Tavelinsky, a ninth- and tenth-grade biology teacher at Dobbs Ferry High School in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., one of 24 teachers from across the nation chosen to participate in the program. Her reward was to spend eight weeks examining the effects of exercise in Goto Kakizaki (GK) rats, a model of Type II diabetes, one of Dr. Edwards’ ongoing studies.

Ms. Tavelinsky seemed thrilled to be a part of the program and have the chance to work with Dr. Edwards. “For the first time, I was able to apply procedures like the Western blot test and polymerase chain reactions (PCR) that I’ve been teaching students for ten years,” said Ms. Tavelinsky. She’s especially looking forward to sharing her valuable experience with her students. “I can’t wait to go back and implement the inquiry-based activities in my classroom that we explored at the Science Teaching Forum,” said Ms. Tavelinsky. The Science Teaching Forum is a weeklong part of the program when all the research teachers take a break from the laboratory and gather at a conference center in Warrenton, Va., to network, brainstorm and share their teaching methods.

It is clear that the Frontiers program isn’t just a summer fling. It begins with a rigorous application process in January. With no prerequisites for a physiology background or lab experience, and stipends up to $8,500 available to each research teacher participant, the program is highly competitive. In March, winners are notified of their acceptance and assigned various activities and readings to help them prepare for their summer research experience. Assignments continue throughout the summer and into next year, culminating with their attendance at the 35th Congress of the International Union of Physiological Sciences (IUPS) in San Diego in early April.

Dr. Edwards is in good company with other faculty members who were research mentors in the program since its inception in 1990. Francis L. Belloni, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School of Basic Medical Sciences and professor of physiology, hosted two teachers in the early ’90s and three others—Wen-Hui Wang, M.D., professor of pharmacology, Michael S. Wolin, Ph.D., professor of physiology and Thomas H. Hintze, Ph.D. ’97, professor of physiology—who served as mentors in 1997, 1998 and 1999 respectively.