Science teacher enhances skills through research project

Contact: Rene AbadieLisa Landry
Date: August 2, 2012
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GAINING LAB EXPERIENCE – High school teacher Lisa Cordes Landry gained valuable experience working in Southeastern Louisiana University biological sciences laboratories over the summer that she will share with her students at Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville.


     HAMMOND – When high school science teacher Lisa Cordes Landry returns to her classroom this fall, she will bring with her new skills and expertise gained over the summer working in a biology lab at Southeastern Louisiana University.

     Landry, who teaches advanced biology at Fontainebleau High School in Mandeville, is working with Southeastern fish specialist Kyle Piller through a Research Experience for Teachers grant funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

     "I like to stay on the cutting edge of science, which is constantly changing," said Landry, a Southeastern graduate with bachelor's and master's degrees in biological sciences. "As a teacher, I feel the need to keep up as much as possible for my students."

     "The grant is a supplement to my NSF grant and allows me to provide a summer research opportunity for a local high school teacher to work in my lab," said Piller, an associate professor of biological sciences. "This has broad reaching impacts because the skills she learns here and the teaching modules she is developing will go back to her high school classroom to benefit her students."

    In addition to providing a stipend for Landry, the grant also provides funds for supplies she can use in her Fontainebleau High labs.

     Piller's research looks at the diversification of different species of new world silverside fish using samples he collects in Mexico. The research is being conducted in collaboration with scientists at the University of Wisconsin.

     "We're determining how the species are related; it's a group of species that have speciated only relatively recently – within the last several million years. Lisa is working with a different approach by using more molecular markers to determine relationships among the species," he said.

     Landry is anxious to share her research experience her students.

     "I am really fortunate in that I teach students who are the cream of the crop, the ones who really want to learn," Landry said. "In advanced biology, the students want to be there. Their questions sometimes just blow me away."

     Landry also teaches biology through the Early Start program at Fontainebleau, which allows high school students to earn college credit that is applicable at any Louisiana public college or university.

     "This project allows me the time to work on modules and experiments in which my students will be isolating DNA themselves," she added. "Our high school science labs have come a long way from dissecting frogs and conducting canned experiments. In many cases now, we let the students design experiments themselves. It's a valuable learning experience."

     Landry is already planning field trips to Southeastern for her students, where they can see the university's labs, its various biological collections, and meet some professors. A trip to Southeastern's Turtle Cove Environmental Research Station on Pass Manchac is also being arranged.

     "I want our students to see how real research is being conducted, and this is a great opportunity for them," she added.

     "That type of outreach could have a big impact on the potential recruitment of new science students for Southeastern," Piller added. "It shows the students the facilities we offer and the kind of research work they can do even as undergraduates."

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