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School of Education and Biology collaboration secures National Science Foundation funding


Congratulations to Drs. Mike Grillo (Biology) and Lara Smetana (Education) on securing funding from the National Science Foundation for the 5-year project entitled Pre-service Teacher Research Experience in Biodiversity Studies. The program exposes future teachers to research and provides first-hand experience with the scientific process to enhance their preparedness and ability to effectively teach science in the classroom. The focus of this program is biodiversity in an urban setting. The loss of biodiversity is one of the biggest challenges of our time and thus biodiversity science is one of the fastest growing and most integrative fields in all of science and incorporates questions and methodologies from a range of disciplines including biology, chemistry, geology, computer science, math, and statistics. Pre-service teachers will work full time in a Loyola lab during the summer and will participate in weekly professional development sessions. Participants will also receive a stipend and funding to attend research conferences. Smetana will lead the educational research components of the project, advancing knowledge about developing, implementing, and sustaining summer research experiences for pre-service high school STEM teachers. There are also opportunities for graduate research assistants to work alongside Dr. Smetana and the external evaluator to gain experience on educational research and evaluation projects.

Interested preservice teachers and graduate research assistants should reach out to Dr. Grillo or Dr. Smetana for more information.


During the summer of 2021 Drs. Mike Grillo and Lara Smetana, assisted by SOE aluma and adjunct professor Dr. Megan Leider, provided full time research experiences for two pre-service teachers with the support of a 1-year grant from the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB). These pre-RETs spent the summer conducting research alongside graduate students in the Grillo lab aimed at understanding the role of plant-microbe interactions in controlling plant species ranges. Here the pre-RETs are pictured in the LUC rooftop greenhouses. The pre-RETs started their teaching careers in Chicago high schools this year, presented at the Midwest Noyce Conference and will present at the ASPB conference this summer.

This initiative was a great success and the lessons learned will guide the expansion of the LUC pre-RET program through the new NSF award.