Rachel Olson, Ph.D.
B.A., Biology, Concordia College Moorhead, MN
M.S., Entomology, Michigan State University
Ph.D., Entomology, Michigan State University
During my undergraduate studies I had the wonderful opportunity to be apart of various research projects ranging from molecular biology to mathematical modeling to bioassessment of Alaskan stream health. Upon graduation I worked for Viromed Laboratories in Minnetonka, MN performing and developing assays for the Antimicrobial Research and Testing Services / Clinical Trials department. These experiences solidified my interest in the sciences and my desire to continue formal training.
I earned my M.S. in Entomology from Michigan State University. During this experience I was trained in electrophysiological and molecular biological techniques while investigating the functional and pharmacological characterization of Drosophila melanogaster voltage-gated sodium channels. I was recently awarded my Ph.D. in Entomology from Michigan State University where I worked on the phylogeny of a native group of beetles (Trogoderma) and collaborated with the USDA APHIS to develop molecular methods of detecting the invasive species Trogoderma granarium (the Khapra beetle).
I have been passionate and excited about teaching since I was 16 years old working as a swimming lesson instructor for the local YMCA. During my undergraduate years I worked as a mathematics tutor for the Academic Enhancement Center at Concordia College, Moorhead, MN. I have embraced both traditional and non-traditional teaching opportunities during my graduate studies at Michigan State University. I have worked as a camp counselor to MSU’s Insect World Science Camp and aided in the development and execution of the advanced-student learning experiences (student ages ~14-18). I have developed and taught a variety of classes through the Bug House in the Department of Entomology at MSU for audiences ranging from K-12 students, daycare groups, college-students, scouts to adult-learners such as the Greater Lansing Orchid Society. The greatest influence toward my professional development came from six years of working for the Center for Integrated Studies in General Sciences (CISGS) at MSU. Here I worked as a teaching assistant, co-coordinator and coordinator working with a team of individuals to execute required laboratory experiences for non-science majors. One of the rewarding challenges of teaching a course aimed at non-science majors is making the course relevant toward their lives to ensure their interest and retention of material. Through the CISGS I also had the opportunity to co-teach a study-abroad course that contained an exciting mixture of science- and non-science majors.
At UMR I will join Dr. Metzger and Professor Silveira this fall to teach Molecular Genetics and Advanced Topics in Molecular and Cellular Biology and Genetics.
Assuming that all information taught is inherently relevant, retention of that material must be crucial. Because of my experience in a traditional classroom setting, outreach settings and study-abroad, it seems retention is best achieved when an emotional, personal connection is made with the material. Conversations with prior students have made it evident that material retained struck a personal chord. This topic is a focus of scientific scholarship that I would like to pursue in the future.
I am also interested in continuing to improve the taxonomic knowledge of Trogoderma.