Mid-Atlantic Fellows

In 2012, forty life sciences educators throughout the United States accepted a daunting but important task -- to serve as catalysts to stimulate department-wide reform in undergraduate Life Sciences programs across the country.  This is the work of the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE), which was established through a collaborative effort among leaders from the National Science Foundation (NSF), National Institute for Health/National Institute for General Medical Science, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute.  Additional PULSE Fellows have joined in this work, and the PULSE Fellows in the Mid-Atlantic region include:

Virginia Balke

Loretta Brancaccio-Taras, PhD

For the past 22 years, I have taught microbiology to community college students.  I am a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Director of e-Learning at Kingsborough Community College (KCC) of the City University of New York.  From 2010-2016 I served as chairperson of the Department of Biological Sciences.   In 2005, I participated in the American Society for Microbiology’s (ASM) Scholars in Residence Program and worked on a project about using writing and group work to improve student learning.  It was a transformative experience and made me a better educator.  Since then, I has assisted over 40 KCC faculty develop research projects to gather evidence about effective teaching practices.  Beyond KCC, I am an active ASM member, participating in the many ASM initiatives designed to transform undergraduate life science education.  I am the chair of the Science Teaching fellows Program and the Biology Scholars Program.  I also serve as a section editor for the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education and am a member of the Education Board.  In 2016, I was the recipient of ASM’s  Carski Foundation Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award.

Samantha Elliott

Alix Fink

Marcy Peteroy-Kelly, PhD 

I am a Professor in the Department of Biology at Pace University in New York City.  I earned my PhD in 2000 from the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ in Newark,NJ.  I maintain two active research programs.  My  undergraduate research laboratory work focuses on the interaction between a model organism for tuberculosis, Mycobacterium bovis-BCG, and glutathione.  Glutathione is a thiol-based detoxification molecule produced by the human immune response upon infection.  Work from my laboratory suggests that glutathione induces reductive stress in BCG, leading to toxicity.  My work also demonstrates that persistent BCG is resistant to GSH-induced reductive stress toxicity.  My undergraduate research students have presented the results from their work at several national scientific meetings including the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) General Meeting.  Three of my research students have earned ASM Undergraduate Research Fellowships to support their research and several of my undergraduate students have been co-authors on peer reviewed scientific papers.  I also have expertise in educational assessment research.  I have published several of my studies in peer reviewed undergraduate biology education journals and am currently the PI on an NSF Transforming Undergraduate Education in the Sciences (TUES) grant.  I recently published a first year, biology majors laboratory manual to introduce students to scientific research entitled “The Fundamentals of Scientific Research: An Introductory Laboratory Manual” with Wiley Blackwell Publishing.  I also serve as the Research Editor for the ASM education journal, Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education and as the Lead Facilitator for the ASM Biology Scholars Program Writing and Publishing Institute. I was awarded the Charles and Homer Pace Teaching Excellence Award in May 2016.  My work with the PULSE fellows focuses on expanding the Recognition Program and the assessment of the impact of PULSE on Departmental change.  In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, running, and Zumba!

Jacqueline Washington, PhD

I am Professor and Chair of the Department of Natural Sciences at Nyack College, where I have taught since 2004.    I earned my doctorate in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark,  NJ (now Rutgers University).  Very early on in my teaching career, I realized that today’s students don’t learn in the same way which we were taught, and thus I began a journey to find the best methods to reach them.  My searching led me to the Case Study Workshop at the University of Buffalo, where I was excited to learn active learning techniques which I began to implement in my courses. Most transformative in my teaching journey was my work and experiences as a 2009-10 American Society of Microbiology Biology Scholar, and 2011-12 ASM Transitions Scholar. Embracing the recommendations of the Vision and Change report, I have Ied the charge to transform our science department and curriculum.  Currently, our students are involved in two national discovery-based authentic research laboratory programs, the Small World Initiative and SEA-PHAGES (Science Education Alliance-Phage Hunters Advancing Genomics and Evolutionary Science), efforts which have led to the discovery of novel organisms. I am a past chair and vice chair of the American Society of Microbiology Conference of Undergraduate Educators (ASMCUE) and I have served on the ASM Committee on Undergraduate Education.  I have also been involved in an AAUW community initiative in Rockland County, NY to introduce girls to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Michelle Withers, PhD

Michelle is an Associate Professor of Biology and science education researcher at the West Virginia University, where she researches methods for improving science education in addition to teaching introductory biology and a graduate course focused on scholarly teaching. Her research focuses on evaluating the impact of innovative assessment methods on student learning in large enrollment, introductory biology courses. Another major focus of her research program is evaluating methods for training current and future faculty in the use of evidence-based practices.  Withers received her BS in Public Health/Nutrition from the University of North Carolina in 1989 and her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Arizona in 1995. As a post-doctoral fellow at Brandeis University, Withers performed research on the biological basis of behavior in a relatively simple neural network in crustaceans. She then joined the faculty at Louisiana State University as an instructor in the Biology Department from 2000-2007. During her tenure at LSU, Withers became involved with the National Academies Summer Institute on Undergraduate Biology Education (NASI). She developed the first regional offshoot of the NASI and is now spearheading the “mobile” summer institutes that travel to institutions to train faculty and address barriers to improving STEM education. She is the former Director of the National Academies Scientific Teaching Alliance, serves on the executive board of the Biology Director’s Consortium (BDC), is a AAAS Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE) Fellow and is a founding member of the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research (SABER).  Dr. Withers is a co-author on the AAAS report Vision and Change in Undergraduate Biology: A Call to Action (2011) and on a book in the Scientific Teaching series on best uses of assessment, Assessment In the College Science Classroom (2014).

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