Doctoral candidates Stephen E. Harris (Biology) and Marissa Bellino (Urban Education) have won the Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The prize encourages “innovation and excellence in education by recognizing outstanding, inquiry-based science and design-based engineering education modules,” with the goal of allowing “advanced high school and undergraduate students to work with some of the same data and tools as practicing scientists and engineers.”
Harris and Bellino’s project, “DNA Barcoding from NYC to Belize,” uses the technique of DNA barcoding, with its ability to provide fast access to taxonomic information, to accomplish this. Students collect field samples and learn how to extract DNA and generate barcodes. The curriculum imparts practical knowledge and skills to foster students’ interest in science, and the course materials show teachers how to run their own DNA barcoding labs, even on a low budget.
Harris is in the ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior track of the Graduate Center’s Ph.D. Program in Biology and is currently a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow. He studies the evolutionary impacts of urbanization on white-footed mice in New York City. Bellino, who is working on her Ph.D. in urban education at the GC, is a New York City high school teacher and director of education and outreach at BioBelize. She was the recipient of the 2011 Sloan Award for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics.
The project began through the GC’s Center for Advanced Study in Education (CASE), with an NSF grant for the CUNY Science Now GK–12 Program. Principal investigators were Gillian Small (Prof., City, Biology), and the late Victor Strozak of CASE.