Krista Clark on Success Through Science
What brought you to UC Clermont?
I always wanted to be a teacher. When I entered grad school for my PhD, I went to Kansas State because they had a PhD program that would let me teach the entire time I was there. After grad school, while I was doing my post-doc at Cincinnati Children's Hospital, I told my mentor that I was only going to stay for two years because that is the experience I needed to get a teaching job. The second month I was there I received an email from Miami University that they were looking for adjunct faculty, and I jumped at the chance. I was working 75-hour weeks to fulfill my post-doc responsibilities and teach.
It was during that second year of my post-doc that I applied to teach at UC Clermont. Because Clermont is an open-access college, it gives me many opportunities to teach students with diverse backgrounds and levels of preparation. It’s always challenging to find new and exciting ways to make material to tangible for students.
What attracted you to science? What do you love about it?
What I love about science is actually not the research aspect of it, which is how a majority of biology PhD’s are trained. I was always fairly good at bench research, but it was repetitive and every answer led me to another question rather than a true answer. For my friends who love research, that is the entire point, and they love that. But I am a completionist and that frustrated me. I always knew that although I could continue and be mediocre as a research scientist, I had some unique abilities for teaching science.
The part of science I love is how beautifully everything fits together and how the more you know about a particular biological function the more complex it becomes. The best part about this complexity for me is how to break this complex process down into small enough pieces that anyone can understand it. I also love passing my fascination for these topics on to my students. There really is an endless number of things to learn in this field.
What's your favorite part of working with students?
I have always loved teaching the students that think they aren’t “good” at science or that they don’t like it. I love teaching the non-majors courses in biology because I have more of a chance to interact with these students. I also like to challenge students to achieve more than they think they are capable of. I like to set a high bar for my students and most of the time students will work to hit that mark.
What advice would you give to students interested in science-related (STEM) careers?
STEM includes a huge variety of fields so the possibilities are endless. Many healthcare fields are available, and there will always be a need for scientific research and teaching. In addition to those more obvious fields, more that students are finding ways to apply science to careers I never even thought of. One example is scientific research for television, movies and books. There are scientists whose job it is to research the science presented in these media to ensure it is accurate. Scientific illustration is another example.
One piece of advice I give my students is to really get everything you can out of your education in whatever field you choose. College is a time to find yourself and see what you are really made of. Every challenge is a chance to prove to the world that you can do it.
What opportunities are available to students at UC Clermont who are interested in science?
It is often overlooked that there many opportunities for undergraduate research here at Clermont. Dr. Cliff Larrabee in chemistry has a robust program in cancer research ongoing, and one of Dr. Michael Preston’s undergraduate research students was just invited to present the results of her research at a conference in London. Dr. Christopher Green and Dr. Pedro DoAmaral in biology also have student research projects ongoing in the areas of antibiotic resistance and thermoregulation.
This fall I implemented a research program called the Small World Initiative in our Introduction to Biology course. In this course, students work throughout the semester to isolate soil bacteria and identify strains that produce antibiotics in an attempt to help in the critical search of new varieties of antibiotics. These antibiotic isolates will provide independent research projects for years to come for students that have interest in microbiology or molecular biology.
In addition, UC Clermont has three allied health programs including Physical Therapy Assisting, Respiratory Therapy and Surgical Technology and Assisting. These programs produce highly successful students every year. We also have a significant number of students at UC Clermont enroll in Pre-nursing who are highly successful in their acceptance to various nursing schools.