MONMOUTH -- A Western Oregon University associate professor has been honored by the National Association for Biology Teachers.
Erin Baumgartner was named in July the recipient of the Four-Year College & University Biology Research in Teaching Award, which focuses on advances or exemplary methods for the way biology is taught.
A Kansas-native, Baumgartner taught at the University of Hawaii-Manoa for six years before she was hired at Western in 2008. Her research interests include science education and invasion biology. She has also co-authored chapters in books on science teaching strategies.
NABT recognized Baumgartner's work teaching introductory-level biology -- a course typically aimed at students not planning for careers in science.
"At a lot of schools, nobody wants to teach the non-majors," Baumgartner said. "At Western, we've put a lot of effort and resources into education research to give those non-majors a good experience."
Baumgartner said she's tried to structure her classes so students are asking more questions and predicting outcomes of experiments instead of following the standard laboratory "cookbook" of following steps to get certain results.
Head-scratching topics such as cellular biology, meanwhile, are made relatable -- including what your body is doing when you consume a chocolate chip cookie.
"Instead of esoteric facts, we try to make it real world," Baumgartner said.
Baumgartner will be honored during NABT's annual conference in Anaheim in October.