Biologist Develops Program for Young Scientists

September 12, 2012

Paul Deeble believes in Mary Baldwin University science students. If he didn’t, the associate professor of biology could not have proposed the student-as-teacher model for a Young Women in Science (YWIS) program that is the focus of his semester-long sabbatical.

Associate Professor of Biology Paul Deeble“The best way to truly learn something is to teach it,” said Deeble, who is working this fall to develop a grant proposal and identify funding sources to revive YWIS, which brought high-school students to campus in the 1980s and 90s.

“One of the things that consistently impresses me about our students is their willingness to help their classmates in the classroom and the lab, even when they don’t have to,” he added.

Deeble’s idea involves engaging several Mary Baldwin science faculty members to train undergraduate researchers during a May Term course, then having those undergraduates lead high schoolers — with faculty supervision — in projects during the following summer. He is using programs at other, large research universities as models, but the method of employing students as the instructors will be unique to Mary Baldwin, he said.

Active areas of ongoing scientific research by Mary Baldwin faculty that could be part of YWIS include neuroscience and reproduction, materials science, estrogenic contaminants in the environment, field biology and ornithology, and Deeble’s own research in cellular studies of cancer.

Receiving the college’s Karl F. and Patricia H. Menk Award for 2012 validated his scholarly research and gave Deeble encouragement to pursue developing the program for young women interested in science. Given annually, the award — named for the late professor emerita of history Patricia Menk and her husband, a former Mary Baldwin professor of microbiology — supports in-depth faculty work across the disciplines. Recent recipients include Professor of Asian Studies Daniel Metraux, Associate Professor of Sociology Daniel Stuhlsatz, and Professor of Economics Judy Klein.

With the basic concept for the program in progress, Deeble will concentrate this semester on writing a detailed grant proposal to submit to specific sources within the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, as well as pursuing funding from a few private sources. Grant funding is needed to buy materials and equipment for research as well as to support summer stipends for Mary Baldwin faculty and students.

“I’m drawing on the excitement that I see in our students when investigating new areas of research and sharing their skills and findings,” Deeble said. “In the end, I think it has the potential to be a good recruitment tool as well.”