Student Transformation is Priority for Humphreys Lecturer

March 26, 2013

After working with more than 100 students in her microbiology lab for nearly 20 years, Louise Temple is convinced that engaging in research is life-changing for undergraduates.

“At some point in the process, they almost always realize that there is so much left to learn, but also that they can make a contribution to our understanding of the living world,” said Temple, James Madison University (JMU) professor of Integrated Science and Technology, about the students she mentors. “It is the first time they have a say in what to do in the lab, which starts to build the independent thinking that is a critical part of becoming a scientifically literate person, someone who understands the inquiry process and feels competent to try and understand what has gone before.”

Temple’s perspective caught the attention of Mary Baldwin Associate Professor of Biology Paul Deeble, who invited her to give the 2013 Humphreys Biology Lecture. Temple’s public presentation, which will focus on her interaction with students through the discovery method of teaching, begins at 6 p.m. on April 1 in James D. Francis Auditorium. She will also meet for a more informal discussion with biology faculty and selected students following the lecture.

“She truly believes in the concept of learning by doing and the impact of research as a learning tool for undergraduates,” Deeble said, noting that Temple is one of the major forces in the American Society for Microbiology’s active Shenandoah Valley chapter.

Temple’s study of phages — viruses that infect bacteria (illustrated at right) — and bacterial pathogens complements courses offered this semester at Mary Baldwin such as Microbiology and Genetics, Deeble said. Her research on bacteriology and virology has been supported by grants from the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health. She is currently leading several undergraduate projects with JMU students, including one where student researchers are working to identify methicillin resistance genes in viruses in the environment.

Mary Baldwin junior biology and psychology major Sophia Stone is intrigued by the professor’s decades-long work with a pathogen that is similar to Bordetella pertussis, the causative agent of whooping cough.

“I would like to know more about how her findings have applications in healthcare and in commercial industries,” Stone said. “I also hope she will share how she balances teaching with research, in addition to future directions for her research.”

Temple’s commitment to helping students grow combines with her scholarly credibility and cutting-edge research to position her as a strong role model for women in science.

“I found out early in my teaching career that extremely capable women lacked confidence and they lacked an accurate assessment of their own abilities,” said Temple, who earned her PhD in microbiology and immunology from the Medical College of Virginia. “I strive to explicitly encourage all my students, especially those young women who apologize for everything. I’ve even posted the statement, ‘No self-deprecating remarks around here’ in the lab.”

The Mary E. Humphreys Biology Lecture Series was established in 1992 to bring prominent scientists to campus to present public lectures. Sponsoring the series are friends and former students of the late Mary Humphreys, professor emerita of biology, who served on the faculty at Mary Baldwin for 25 years. Read more about the Humphreys Lecture, including a list of past participants.