"For [students], biology is not static; it is much more creative and expressive."
For almost half of his life, Dr. David Mangus worked as a research scientist. He loved working in the laboratory, trying to figure out how things work, designing experiments, and learning new things. As his own children started to grow, Dave began volunteering in their classes and schools, performing chemistry, math, and physics workshops. The excitement and eagerness of the students to learn was so infectious that it motivated him to leave the bench for the classroom.
Dave learned about ABE when he began to developing a four-year non-vocational biotechnology pathway at his school. One of the things that makes his classes unique is that he teaches biology from an engineering perspective. He uses ABE to demonstrate to his students how genetic information can be manipulated to create products that can benefit both individuals and society.
In November 2016, Dave won the Ron Mardigian Biotech Teaching Award and was appointed a seat on the STEM Council for one year.
Why do you participate in the Amgen Biotech Experience?
These labs provide opportunities to engage students with key concepts in biology, particularly in the areas of microbiology, molecular biology and biochemistry. I use ABE as a framework from which to teach the skills students need to be successful in a modern biology laboratory. The ability to work with microbes, manipulate DNA and purify proteins allows my students to make observations and use their knowledge to design and build synthetic systems to solve problems.
How has the Amgen Biotech Experience helped to engage your students in new ways (e.g., hands-on laboratory experience, good curriculum, classroom tools/resources etc.)?
The best way for students to learn is by doing. There is always excitement in the classroom on days we perform ABE experiments. The payoff really comes when students get their results. There is great wow factor when they first see their transformants glowing red and this drives them to want to explore further.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your experience?
As a former research scientist, I place a very high value on laboratory work in my courses. Teaching ABE allows me to share my passion for the scientific process. Students share that excitement with me during ABE labs because they know the labs are both relevant and authentic research experiences.
What impact has ABE had on your students, school and community?
Our biotechnology program has grown to serve almost 260 students in just five years and serves a population that is composed primarily of low income, minority individuals. By funding ABE in our area, the Amgen Foundation is helping to inspire students not typically represented in science to pursue STEM careers.
What kind of support (i.e., professional development) do STEM teachers need to be effective and spark a love for science in their classroom?
Students have a passion for technology and are inspired by being on the “cutting-edge” of trends. Having access to such resources and training on how to use them is critically important for teachers. ABE does this very well. You don’t need to be a trained molecular biologist to teach this material.
Name the three most valuable things that science teachers would get out of participating in ABE.
The ABE-MA staff is incredible at providing technical expertise and professional development to support the program. Most importantly they have established a professional learning community that includes both teachers and scientists. This sort of collaborative effort allows us to develop and share best practices so that our students continue to have amazing learning experiences.
Have you had students experience an 'ah ha' moment and begin to show more interest in science?
These magical moments come when students realize that genetic engineering can be applied to other systems and problems. The idea that genes and genetic elements are parts of a system that can be disassembled and reassembled in different ways is greatly empowering. For them, biology is not static; it is much more creative and expressive.