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Jennifer Koehl, Ph.D., microbiologist and alumna ’02 to give Alumni Seminar in Genetics, October 10

Jen Koehl alumni and biology seminar speaker

Jennifer Koehl

Jennifer Koehl, Ph.D., will be giving the Alumni Seminar in Genetics on engaging rural undergraduates about biology to encourage and prepare them for careers and graduate education in biology. Her presentation “Biology Scholars: Literature, Laboratory and Leadership Program” will at 4 p.m. October 10 in Moulton Hall 210. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend. This is part of the weekly School of Biological Sciences seminar series.

Koehl earned a Ph.D. from the Illinois State University’s Biological Sciences department in 2002, then began her tenure at Saint Vincent College, Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Koehl is currently the departmental chair where she teaches general biology and all the microbiology courses and laboratories. She is engaged in undergraduate microbiology research including antimicrobial-resistance, biofilms, microbiome and depression, and microbes in abandon mine drainage. Koehl’s personal research interests involve STEM education. She has presented or participated in several conferences and symposiums including the American Society for Microbiology Conference for Undergraduate Educators and the S-STEM Symposium (cohosted by NSF and AAAS). She is the PI on an NSF S-STEM grant which supports academically talented but financially-disadvantaged students from rural areas of Pennsylvania.

Abstract of her seminar presentation:
The National Science Foundation supports programs to create an inclusive STEM work force. One initiative is the Scholarships in STEM (S-STEM) program. The Saint Vincent College Biology program received such a grant in 2013. One major factor for academic success (recruitment, retention, and graduation) for STEM students is financial aid measures, particularly scholarships and grants; by removing some economic barriers, students have higher retention and graduation rates possibly due to less stress and more time to focus on learning instead of jobs (Whalen and Shelley, 2010; reviewed in Kuh, et al., 2006). The overall goal of the “Biology Scholars: Literature, Laboratory, and Leadership Program” is to provide scholarships and support to academically talented but financially disadvantaged students from rural communities in Pennsylvania. The proposed program hypothesized that retention of S-STEM Scholars would increase compared to previous Biology students from these rural areas, and, therefore, increase numbers of biology graduates into the workforce and graduate school. The scholars increased (or maintained) their excitement for the field of biology and strengthening their biology foundation through engagement in the biological literature, in research laboratories, and in leadership activities.

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