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National Academies names NMSU biology professor as fellow in life sciences

The National Academies have named Graciela Unguez, an associate professor of biology at New Mexico State University, an Education Fellow in the Life Sciences for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Graciela Unguez, an associate professor of biology at New Mexico State University, has been named an Education Fellow in the Life Sciences by the National Academies for the 2010-2011 academic year. (NMSU photo by Darren Phillips)

The academy chose Unguez after selecting her to participate in the 2010 National Academies Summer Institute of Undergraduate Education in Biology in June, at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The institute encourages faculty at research-intensive universities to take greater responsibility for high-quality undergraduate biology education, and gives them a chance to brainstorm with peers on how to implement new teaching strategies.

"As educators, we learned and were trained on how to instruct the sciences a certain way," Unguez said. "What we've come to understand is that all students learn differently, so we look at new ways to teach and engage students in learning by presenting them with more real-life problems and incorporating them in student teaching."

Teams from 18 research universities in the United States came together in Madison for four days of presentations, discussions and intensive group work all focused on enhancing undergraduate education. Each university team worked with other teams to develop or adapt a series of teaching ideas and skills to be implemented in their introductory courses and assess how students learned under these new guidelines.

"One thing I really want students to consider is the writing and speaking components that can come along with a science emphasis, and thinking about their potential audience and ways to communicate with them."

The teams also pledged to implement a mentoring seminar, designed to enhance the ability of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty to mentor undergraduates in the research laboratory.

"We were able to share experiences and advice on recruiting new majors to the sciences and mentoring and helping students to prepare for their future education and careers," Unguez said.

The National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, known collectively as the National Academies, produce groundbreaking reports that have helped shape sound policies, inform public opinion, and advance the pursuit of science, engineering and medicine.