Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
Ella’s parents both graduated from Kansas State University, and she is following in their footsteps. She grew up going to the Kansas State football games, and feels like it is a second home. Her dad is a lawyer, her mom was a teacher and is now a counselor, and she has two younger sisters. Ella loves to read, go on long walks, and listen to podcasts.
Her Anatomy and Physiology teacher in high school was extremely passionate about teaching, and that is what she remembers most that sparked her interest in science. The class went on an eight-week field trip to do stream studies, fauna exploration, and camping. Half of the time they were in Kansas, and the other half of the time in Colorado, visiting national parks. They drew species and held Q and A sessions. It was then that she became interested in research, as she was drawn to the open-ended questions.
One of the listservs for her major sent out NSF research opportunities, and the RIT experience sounded perfect. Since she always loved education and the study of how people learn, the RIT REU fit both the science research and education aspects of her interests.
Her project this summer with Drs. Dina Newman and Kate Wright is to create an activity to teach biology students about dominance in genetics. After examining student written responses to survey questions asking about dominance, she realized that many students have big gaps in their understanding. Thus, she set about developing a new activity that she hypothesizes will improve their understanding, by focusing on the processes (molecular details) rather than the outcomes (physical traits). To test this, Ella is creating two versions of a case study: one that will discuss simple outcomes in physical characteristics first and the underlying molecular details second. The second version will have the content in reverse order. By administering these through an online platform, she will gather accurate information, whereby the person taking the test won’t be able to go back and change anything.
Dr. Newman plans to use this activity in her Genetics class this fall, with the two recitation sections assigned the different versions. To determine learning gains after the two versions of the activity, students will take the Dominance Concept Inventory (DCI), a research instrument that focuses on common misconceptions about genetics. Ella hopes to also use the activity in her classroom as a TA at Kansas State.