Reflections on Summer 2014 Courses

Group Photo from the 2014 Core Techniques in Protein and Genetic Engineering Course Held at the BTC Institute July 14-18. Photo credit: BTCI

Group Photo from the 2014 Core Techniques in Protein and Genetic Engineering Course Held at the BTC Institute July 14-18. Photo credit: BTCI

One of the things that I encourage all of the students I interact with in BTC Institute courses to do in order to boost retention and make meaning out of the activities that we do in class is to reflect on their experiences. Reflection is one way to connect new knowledge to past experience and get it to really stick in the brain, among other things.

Taking my own advice to heart, I use this space to ponder some interesting aspects of these experiences from my own perspective. This summer, I worked with 65 students and over 25 instructors to deliver four weeks of intensive instruction in molecular biology applied to a wide range of research areas. Continue reading

Broaden Your Horizons While Pursuing Your Doctorate—You Will Be Glad You Did

For this posting, I had promised to include some commentary on ACTION.

image credit: ComiCONNMitch via Wikimedia Commons

image credit: ComiCONNMitch via Wikimedia Commons

What can someone pursuing a doctorate in the biosciences DO during that time to widen the possibilities of employment in the future? In general, the process of obtaining the doctorate has been criticized for taking too long and not doing enough to prepare students for what they will do when they graduate. Considering these criticisms, it seems wrong to create additional check-boxes on the student to-do list leading up to graduation. Therefore, these things are not in addition to what is already expected, but are instead the same things that are already happening re-focused. Continue reading

Influential Factors and Recommendations: Modeling the Development of Knowledge Transfer Skills

I am hoping that this posting generates some conversation – what factors influence the development of knowledge transfer skills for doctoral students? Below is one model that maps many of the influences that a doctoral student in the biosciences may have on their development of expertise, including their ability to transfer knowledge. This model is supported by many studies of doctoral education, including The Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate, Center for Research and Innovation in Graduate Education (CIRGE), Council of Graduate Schools Re-Envisioning the PhD, reports by the National Academy of Science (e.g., 1995 COSEPUP report) and other publicly and privately funded initiatives.

Picture1_webExamination of program elements can help to shape students’ specific interactions and determine what experiences foster the development of knowledge transfer skills. Toward this end, I am expanding some particularly relevant aspects of development that students should develop in order to aid in the acquisition of transfer skills. These categories were developed based on extensive interviews with doctoral students, recent graduates and faculty in numerous programs nationwide.

In order to enhance their ability to transfer knowledge, students should be able to: Continue reading

Understanding Knowledge Transfer at the Doctoral Level – One Pathway to Better Career Development – An Introduction

Few studies have been conducted about knowledge transfer at the PhD level.

Few studies have been conducted about knowledge transfer at the PhD level.

Though my work is primarily in the area of biotechnology, my doctoral degree is in education. Over my next few posts, I thought that I would share some of the findings that came out of research I conducted for my dissertation.  It’s been over two years since graduation and much of this is still not published, though on my honor it’s in the works…I focused my study on understanding knowledge transfer at the doctoral level.  I was able to complete this work due to the generosity of many doctoral students, recent graduates and mentors across the country. This research was not funded in any way, but I believe it is of great importance given the socio-political context we are all functioning in as learners and professionals.  Also, many studies that are similar to the one I did are funded, with a great deal of money I might add. So, without further ado, let me start by introducing the concept of knowledge transfer and why developing knowledge transfer skills are important.

“Knowledge transfer” is a concept grounded in K-12 education and in a general sense refers to an individual’s ability to use knowledge gained in one context in another (similar or dissimilar) context. Continue reading

Campers, Time to Register for Summer Courses

Teaching Labs at the BTC Institute.

Teaching Labs at the BTC Institute.

As a parent, I have seen scores and scores of summer camp advertisements and announcements come my way. It’s a constant reminder that even though here in Madison it’s been hard to keep track of what month it is on account of the especially cold winter and spring, summer is coming!

It is time to get kids into camps and doing some great activities. So, while you’re checking out what opportunities your kids might have to play around and learn something interesting this summer, be sure to look into what opportunities you have as well.

The BTC Institute ( is a nonprofit organization located on the Promega Madison campus and dedicated, in part, to providing educational opportunities and hands-on learning experiences to support the biotechnology community. We have been offering courses since 1993 – that’s over 20 years of experience!

Our courses attract university students and scientists, but they are also appropriate for industry employees. In our workshops and course offerings, our goal is to help learners make concrete connections between technical content and laboratory techniques by doing hands-on science in our labs.

Here is a brief list of the courses we are offering this summer – Continue reading