UPS professor awarded by American Society for Microbiology

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Mark Martin, associate professor of biology at the University of Puget Sound, has been awarded the 2018 Carski Foundation Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award. The honor was bestowed by the national body representing his profession, the American Society for Microbiology (ASM)—the world’s oldest and largest life science organization.

The prestigious award is made annually in recognition of “distinguished teaching of microbiology to undergraduate students and for encouraging them to subsequent achievement.” Martin has been teaching at Puget Sound since 2005 and is known for incorporating social media and creative approaches in the classroom.

“Professor Martin is an excellent pick for this prestigious award,” said nominator Seth Bordenstein, at Vanderbilt University, in Tennessee. “I regularly seek his teaching advice and resources to enhance my microbiology class, and I follow and use his social media recommendations on teaching. His knowledge and enthusiasm for microbiology is infectious to me and microbiologists worldwide.”

University of Michigan Associate Professor Patrick Schloss cited Martin’s ability to engage students in the laboratory, and his efforts to give them access to leading scientists through Skype guest lectures, as other reasons for the nomination. “His impact on the careers of young people has been striking,” he wrote in his nomination letter.

Over the years, Martin has sent 22 of his undergraduate research students to doctoral programs across the United States. Five of these are currently in faculty positions. He has galvanized student interest in microbial science, using techniques such as encouraging first-year students to create luminescent bacterial art, videos, cartoons, and other creations that combine science and art in ways that complement more traditional classroom practices.

Armed with sterilized paint brushes and cultures of glowing bacteria, Martin also conducts #luxart workshops at universities such as Brigham Young University and the University of South Florida, as well as during the ASM Conference for Undergraduate Educators. Students and professors use glowing bacteria to create art and to inspire other microbiology professors.

“Mark has an extraordinarily creative mind, which he applies in teaching to construct a learning environment that is original, stimulating, and inclusive,” commented nominator Jo Handelsman, director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

On his blog, All Creatures Great and Small: Preaching Microbial Centrism!, Martin explains that combining science and art “allows students to ‘see’ topics in a new light, which can help with their understanding of concepts and even improve course outcomes…. In every case I have been awestruck by the creativity, humor, and perceptiveness of my students—most of whom claim that they ‘aren’t creative’,” he wrote.

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