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Spring Hill College Magazine

Infusing Experience with Learning

For Allyn Schoeffler, PhD, it’s important to find practical applications for the science that she teaches.  According to her approach, even a basic lab on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or fluorescent proteins can help students grasp real-world social and environmental issues while teaching and reinforcing skills that every biochemist needs to know. “We try to be integrative in the way we teach,” Schoeffler said. “We want our students to learn biochemistry and how it applies to the world around them, and we want them to understand the role that knowledge can play in social justice.” 

In her GMO lab, the class uses a method called polymerase chain reaction — a technique also used in DNA fingerprinting — to look for specific genes that are only present in organisms that have been artificially modified. The use of GMOs in the food and agricultural industries has spurred scientific discussion regarding potential consequences to the environment alongside a popular discussion regarding safety, according to Schoeffler. “I use this as a way to show them how to apply their knowledge and coursework to understanding a controversial topic. They come at this work and discussion in a very informed way,” she said. 
After spending five years in drug discovery in the pharmaceutical industry, Schoeffler, who has special expertise in biochemistry and biophysics and now serves as an assistant professor, is able to offer a perspective from the other side of the science coin. She has created a course offering in drug discovery and is now working on a new course and lab in biophysics in conjunction with the University of South Alabama for the spring 2017 semester. 
“I get so much energy out of being able to go with these students into unexplored places in the classroom and the lab,” Schoeffler said. “I knew I wanted to be at a place that was really going to value teaching and where I would truly have a chance to experience these types of interactions with students.” 

Visit the website for the Department of Chemistry, Physics & Engineering to learn more about the program.

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