Things currently on my plate, in no particular order:
- Helping to write a proposal for the Merck/AAAS Undergraduate Science Research Program. This program awards $20,000 a year for 3 years to support undergraduate students involved in research that showcases the interrelationship between chemistry and biology. Not simply biochemistry research (not that biochem is simple, mind you), but research that involves collaborative work between biologists and chemists. A lot of the work we do here is of this collaborative nature (e.g. examining the amount of heavy metals in the food chain in Narragansett Bay or using LCMS to analyze the fatty acid content in the eggs of marine organisms). This award would really benefit a number of our students.
- Redesigning the departmental websites for Biology & Marine Biology, Chemistry & Physics, and Mathematics. These three departments make up the Marine & Natural Science Division, so I am also designing a central Marine & Natural Sciences website that will link all the departments and information about our research program together. The division director would like me to have something ready for the next divisional meeting and the Dean of the College of Arts & Science would like me to present the new websites at the next department chairs meeting. No pressure though.
- Teaching two courses. Thankfully both are labs and not lectures this semester:
- Principles of Biology lab
Principles is pretty standard - microscopes, cells, diffusion, pH, enzyme kinetics, macromolecules, respiration, photosynthesis, etc. What I really like about it though is the emphasis on the process of science and the inclusion of weekly open-ended experimentation. In addition to the regular, "canned" portion of the lab, every week the students are required to develop hypotheses and design and run a small experiment to help them test their hypotheses. I've been emphasizing process over products at this point, but hopefully as we move forward I can start to expect better end results.
- Core Science lab
Core Science is a general science course for non-science majors and fulfills the University's science requirement. We cover a wide range of topics, from measuring the acceleration due to gravity to testing Charles' and Boyle's Laws to measuring the energy content in various fuels to investigating photosynthesis and discussing climate change (this is the course where some students were upset about watching "An Inconvenient Truth"). I'm not a huge fan of this class. I don't think the labs are engaging enough or stress the process of science enough. I bet many students leave this course saying, "Yup, just as I thought, science sucks." I do what I can, but this course needs an overhaul. But I digress...
- Principles of Biology lab
- Running the Undergraduate Center for Marine Life Sciences. Basically, as part of the Rhode Island Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (RI-EPSCoR), the Center is charged with providing opportunities for research in the marine life sciences to students and faculty in the state. The idea is to foster collaborative research and to provide access to facilities and equipment that other in-state institutions do not have (and thus, cannot engage in marine life science research). It's hard to pin down how RI-EPSCoR as a whole is supposed to function, but after 7 months on the job and a successful summer research program (that included a weekly seminar series and culminated in a student symposium), I'm beginning to see the potential of the Center.
- Making my kids' breakfast, making my kids' lunch, putting my daughter on the bus, driving my son to daycare, picking my son up at daycare, being home for my daughter when she gets off the bus, driving my daughter to and from Brownies, driving my son to and from hockey (actually Learn to Skate), cooking dinner, doing dishes, putting the kids to bed, watching the Sox and Pats (hey, it's my duty as a full-fledged Masshole, so lay off), etc. I by no means want you think that I do this all alone (I'm not nearly that crazy) - none of this would be possible without my wife right here running around crazy with me. And having in-laws that live 15 minutes away and willing to help with the kids has been nothing short of stupendous.
This litany is not intended to show off how busy I am - there's nothing unique about what I do (see, I'm humble too!). I just figured it was time to tell folks a little more about me, just in case people thought I drank rum, sang sea chanties, and pillaged all day long.