MCCC Science Faculty Showcase Classroom Innovation at Raritan Valley STEM Summit

 

12/16/19

Branchburg, N.J. – Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC) science faculty continued to share their innovations with peers throughout the tristate area this semester at the Raritan Valley Community College (RVCC) STEM Summit on Oct. 18.

Biology Professors Laura Blinderman, Ellen Genovesi and Diane Hilker and Chemistry Professor Helen Tanzini spent the day at the conference as both learners and teachers, informing attendees about Mercer’s STEM programming, networking and picking up tips about how to engage students studying biochemistry.

The event celebrated the teaching of STEM programs among community colleges and features STEM faculty attendees from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. The summit offered 30 unique presentations on technology, learning pedagogies, science content, effective science teaching, and unique projects.

Blinderman presented her talk, titled “Creation of a Science Learning Center,” where she discussed the success of creating MCCC’s Science Learning Center (SLC). Blinderman said that the SLC was created for students to drop in and work with peer and faculty tutors to study models, microscopes, and specimen. Since last year, the SLC received around 1200 student visits, with the number of visits growing regularly.

“I thought the conference was an excellent way to network with STEM faculty from other colleges and to inform them of the excellent activities we do with STEM students at Mercer.” Blinderman said.

Genovesi delivered a talk, titled “Two eyes are not better than one,” in which she discussed academic integrity among students and how teachers can minimize the occurrence of cheating. Genovesi stresses the importance of changing MCCC’s approach to reduce cheating. She looks to better inform students about what is considered cheating in online-based courses.

“Some of the changes in teaching BIO 113 online were the result of seeing the same dissected sheep eyeball four times in three different sections,” Genovesi said. Thus, she and the science faculty introduced an anti-cheating method: totems.

“To try to prevent students from sharing pictures, each student selects a totem, an object that they feel represents themselves,” Genovesi said. “Examples are Legos, stuffed animals, baseball hats, Rubik’s cubes, etc. The irregular shape of the totems makes it more difficult to Photoshop another student’s results with the added bonus that the students seem to really enjoy posing their objects with their projects.

Professors Diane Hilker and Helen Tanzini presented their talk titled “An integrated science research program for community college students.” The professors developed MCCC’s Honors Biology and Chemistry Research program, in which over 90 students have participated. This program creates a bridge for community college students to complete research at four-year, nonprofit science institutions. This opportunity can lead to job offers and internships, reflecting their legitimate work. This past summer, students placed at the Genesis Biotechnology Group, the Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space and Princeton University.

Calling the outing a success, the MCCC science faculty left the summit with an eye towards returning to future conferences.  

“The STEM Summit was well attended and Mercer was well represented by our faculty presenters,” said Blinderman. “The consensus among Mercer faculty is that we will present at the 2020 STEM conference.”

Business and STEM Division at MCCC

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Laura Blinderman, presents on the creation of MCCC's Science Learning Center.

Genovesi Presents RVCC

Ellen Genovesi shared developments improving academic integrity among students in online courses. 

Tanzini and Hilker present

Diane Hilker and Helen Tanzini discussed the merits of developing internship and work study opportunities for students.