Making a Difference

Although I’m finished with my undergraduate degree, I’m sticking around my undergraduate lab for the summer so that I can finish up old projects and help turn my undergraduate thesis into a paper for publication. Right now, our lab is in flux–several recent ex-undergraduates like myself are hanging around until we go on to something else while other new undergraduates are starting out, and we have a number of people who are temporarily attached to the lab for the summer.

Two of these are AP Biology teachers who are working on adapting some of our work to their curriculums in an effort to teach evolution better to their classmates, and they are particularly interested in my current work because it involves creating video recordings and analyzing the behavioral differences between populations. That means they don’t have to bring live animals into their classes, but their students can still analyze raw data and come to a conclusion.

I am utterly delighted by this, and I have been trying to help them set up ideas as much as possible before I leave. I believe very strongly in good science education, particularly good evolutionary biology education. In part, this is because I love my subject and would like to see everyone get a chance to experience it, but I’m also excited because evolutionary education in the US is so very bad. (Recent polls say that 46% of Americans do not accept the theory of evolution, a number I find both unsurprising and terrifying, given that the theory of evolution underpins all of modern biology.) Seeing my work used to help try to make those numbers a little less awful for the next generation makes me feel a little better about them.

Besides, it’s just plain cool to see my work being used for something besides my own curiosity! Sure, it will eventually go into a paper for publication–and by “eventually” I mean “yesterday my mentor told me she’d like to submit our paper to the journal sometime in the next two weeks”–but that still doesn’t feel quite real yet.

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