Wayne State University

Wayne State University professor serving as research mentor to Grosse Pointe Public Schools teacher

Detroit - Patrick Mueller, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology in Wayne State University’s School of Medicine, is giving a science teacher real-life laboratory experience as part of the American Physiological Society (APS) Frontiers in Physiology fellowship program. The program is part of the APS’ effort to promote excellence in K-12 science education.

Mueller is serving as a research mentor to Sue Speirs of Grosse Pointe Public Schools in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich. Mueller is one of 17 APS members working with recipients of the 2011 Frontiers in Physiology Professional Development Fellowship. Teacher fellows work in an APS member’s laboratory for up to eight weeks over the summer. The APS awarded the research fellowships to 16 middle and high school science teachers in 12 states. The researchers continue to work with the teachers through the school year, visiting their classrooms or having the teachers and their students visit their labs.

“For many teachers, this summer experience marks the first time they have ever participated in scientific research,” said Marsha Lakes Matyas, the APS’ director of education programs. “It gives them a new perspective on their teaching and the importance of hands-on, inquiry-based learning, which they carry back to their students. The mentoring relationship not only continues into the school year but sometimes lasts for years to follow.”

The program gives the teachers the opportunity to learn biomedical research techniques and follow the scientific process from start to finish. Teachers learn the clinical relevance of the research and how it is applied to human health, an aspect of translational, or “bench to bedside,” research. As a result, the teachers gain a greater understanding of science, which they can pass on to their students. The teachers also learn effective education strategies that help them translate their research experience into classroom lessons.

The award provides each teacher with fellowship payments and travel expenses up to $9,300. It includes a one-week science-teaching workshop in Washington, D.C., to explore new and innovative research and teaching techniques intended for application in the classroom. The fellows also receive travel expenses to attend the APS annual scientific meeting, Experimental Biology 2012, in San Diego, Calif., which attracts more than 10,000 scientists annually.

Training science teachers for more than two decades

The Frontiers program began in 1990 with 10 high school science teachers who received fellowships for eight weeks of summer research in a physiology laboratory. Since then, more than 400 teachers and 245 APS members nationwide have participated in the program.

The program has helped teachers increase their understanding of scientific research methods and the importance of biomedical research. It also has helped teachers incorporate best teaching practices — those that promote both excellence and equity in science education — as recommended by the National Research Council’s National Science Education Standards.

Frontiers in Physiology (www.frontiersinphys.org) is sponsored by the APS, the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Science Education Partnership Award Program (www.ncrrsepa.org), and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the NIH.

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Wayne State University is one of the nation’s pre-eminent public research universities in an urban setting. Through its multidisciplinary approach to research and education, and its ongoing collaboration with government, industry and other institutions, the university seeks to enhance economic growth and improve the quality of life in the city of Detroit, state of Michigan and throughout the world. For more information about research at Wayne State University, visit http://www.research.wayne.edu.