SAFE Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Sarah Arrington
Dr. Sarah Arrington, director of general biology, Department of Biology
Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) fund recipient
Project: “BIO1801 Lab Redesign”
Since joining the Department of Biology in August of 2017, Arrington has worked with the staff in the general biology program and the faculty in the departments of Biology and Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences to redesign Biological Concept’s 1 course. These individuals are redesigning the course to align with the Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education (PULSE) and the initiative Vision and Change. One of the major goals of Vision and Change is for biology majors to have authentic, inquiry-based lab experiences.
“For decades biology majors have been performing the same cook-book style labs which does little to excite them about science, nor does it expose them to how research is really conducted. We wanted to change that here at Appalachian,” explained Arrington.
Creating more inquiry-based lab experiences with modern technology though, is not without cost. Arrington stated that, “With funding from the Chancellor's Innovation Award and the SAFE Grant, we now have high-quality equipment for our students to use starting their freshman year. This is so exciting. Prior to receiving these awards, our students were using poor quality instruments or had to rely on equipment in our department’s research labs, which did not allow them to run the full experiments themselves. With the equipment that we have been able to purchase, students can now perform research-grade experiments from start to finish in our laboratories.” She also noted how this will not only prepare students for future classes, but also help to retain them in the program.
The pandemic has certainly put a hold on being able to fully run these labs in-person, but Arrington is hopeful that starting in the fall 2021 semester, students will be back in the lab and using the new equipment.
“During the pandemic we have had to substitute our in-person labs with virtual experiences, which just are not the same. We have learned a lot about how and how not to do labs online, but nothing beats actually working in the lab doing hands-on experiments with a team of your peers,” explained Arrington.
Once back in the lab, Arrington will assess student learning and their perceptions of lab work compared to prior semesters. She will also assess how well students perform in upper-level biology lab courses after having been exposed to more modern equipment in their freshman year.
Overall, Arrington has helped make great progress in the redesign of the Biological Concept’s 1 course. She expressed that students will complete the course with a better idea of what it’s like to be a scientist and have the confidence to continue down this path.
About The SAFE Fund
Initially endowed by Hughlene and Bill Frank, the College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund provides resources that can be used to support undergraduate, graduate and faculty experiences. The SAFE Fund provides funding for college priorities and opportunities that arise throughout the year. These unrestricted funds support student and faculty travel, publication support for faculty and student research opportunities. Learn more at: https://cas.appstate.edu/students/student-and-faculty-excellence-safe-fund.
About the A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
The A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences offers a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry, a Bachelor of Science in chemistry with eight different concentrations and an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree in fermentation sciences. The department’s programs prepare students to attend graduate and professional schools, as well as for employment in the pharmaceutical and fermentation industries and other business sectors. Learn more at https://chemistry.appstate.edu.
About the Department of Biology
The Department of Biology is a community of teacher-scholars, with faculty representing the full breadth of biological specializations — from molecular genetics to landscape/ecosystem ecology. The department seeks to produce graduates with sound scientific knowledge, the skills to create new knowledge and the excitement and appreciation of scientific discovery. Learn more at https://biology.appstate.edu.
Compiled and written by Sophia Woodall and Ellen Gwin Burnette
April 9, 2021