University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR
Major: Chemistry BS
Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, Aidan is a senior Chemistry major and Biology minor at the University of Arkansas. Since none of his parents or grandparents attended college, Aidan and his sister are first-generation college students. Aidan developed his love and talent for science in high school, where he graduated as the class salutatorian. Upon leaving high school he realized he wanted to be in the pre-med program and was also interested in teaching, so he entered a Secondary Education Certificate Program for STEM majors at his university.
His RIT summer education research project aims to understand mental models of biology experts and biology students. Through semi-structured interviews Aidan asks his research participants to describe and draw various concepts and process in molecular biology and genetics. Through the analysis of expert and student-generated drawings he is uncovering important findings about how experts and novices communicate their ideas. Through this work Aidan is also helping to refine and test out a new framework for thinking about and teaching concepts related to DNA. He is very interested in how experts in the field (professors) represent materials to students, often using long, complex analogies, whereas students take an entirely different approach. Aidan is collaborating with one of last year’s REU students on a virtual poster to be presented at the Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research in July 2020.