Statement of Purpose:
Through teaching undergraduates in the classroom setting and the research laboratory I have begun to appreciate the challenges in communicating science. I worry that the gulf between scientists and the general public is widening. While my students are quite intelligent, I feel they are learning less science in high school, and are struggling more with critical thinking skills. I find it fascinating that many people would never claim to understand the Theory of Relativity, yet feel perfectly comfortable criticizing the Theory of Evolution without understanding a bit of Biology. I thought it would be a worthwhile challenge to try to communicate biology to non-biologists in the style of creative nonfiction.
Jennifer Armstrong grew up in Las Cruces, New Mexico, and received a B.S. in Biochemistry from New Mexico State University. She conducted PhD research at the Salk Institute for Biological studies, studying the expression of the human beta-globin gene in the context of chromatin. She conducted postdoctoral research at the University of California, Santa Cruz, looking at gene expression and chromosome structure in the fruit fly. In 2003 she began as a Professor of Biology in the W.M. Keck Science Department, the science department shared by Scripps College, Pitzer College and Claremont McKenna College, three of the five undergraduate, liberal arts Claremont Colleges. She has published research articles and review articles on the topics of gene expression and chromatin structure and a book chapter on agarose gel electrophoresis.
Jennifer’s laboratory at The Claremont Colleges uses the fruit fly to study the function of chromatin remodeling factors, which are conserved through evolution and are critical to maintain the structure and function of our DNA. These factors are lacking in cancer cells, suggesting that their absence may result in cellular transformation. Exciting new research suggests that they are critical for stem cells in ways that are not yet understood.
In the absence of Masters or PhD students, the Claremont College undergraduates step up to the challenge of taking on their own projects and conducting and interpreting sophisticated experiments. Jennifer mentors seven to twelve research students during the school year, and is particularly proud of her students’ accomplishments.
Statement of Purpose:
In the Mathematics Department common room near my office, a frequent topic of conversation is our bewilderment at the fear and loathing, or at least disdain, for mathematics that we hear so often in American society, and even from some of our own colleagues in other disciplines. Sometimes one of us says, “We’re on one side of a big cultural divide,” or “We must just be on different wavelengths.” This piece is an attempt to express the bewilderment, and to look for ways to reach across the divide. The “Writing Beyond Borders” project seemed the ideal place to start, and I’m grateful to Katharine Wright, Susan Burch, and my co-participants for all of the constructive suggestions and support.
Priscilla Bremser has been teaching Mathematics at Middlebury College since 1984. Trained as a number theorist, she has in recent years directed much of her professional energy to mathematics education. She has served since 2007 as an instructor for the Vermont Mathematics Initiative, a masters’ program for practicing teachers, and has developed “Mathematics for Teachers” as a joint Mathematics/Education Studies course at Middlebury.
In her mathematics teaching, Priscilla often uses an inquiry-based learning approach, where there is less class time given to lecture and more to students doing mathematics together under the instructor’s careful guidance. In addition to her mathematics classes, she regularly offers writing-intensive courses in Middlebury’s first-year seminar program.
Priscilla is a loyal alumna of Smith College. She and her husband, Steve Maier, live in Middlebury, where they enjoy bicycling and cross-country skiing. They have three grown sons.
Statement of Purpose:
I wrote this piece to try and figure out what happened to me in 1988 when I was a young man living in Bangkok and teaching English at a couple of language schools. It’s a coming-of-age piece, a love triangle that features three people in their 20s trying to figure out who they are and what they want.
Peter Graham teaches creative writing and film studies at DePauw University. He has published memoir and personal essays in magazines and literary journals such as Columbia: A Journal of Poetry and Prose and Notre Dame Magazine, and his travel writing has been anthologized in The Xmas Men, a book of essays published by the Indiana Historical Society.