Monroe has been involved with SENCER since 2003, when he and colleagues implemented a series of seminar courses on the human body for the USM Honors Program. Additional work has emphasized interactions with K-12 teachers and their students and has brought classroom molecular biology based studies of microbial and viral biodiversity into high school classrooms in rural Maine. Through NSF funding, an electron microscopy core facility has been established at USM for use both in research and in science education outreach projects for K-12 teachers and students. A NIH Science Education Partnership Award has allowed supported increased teacher professional development and science education outreach activities focusing on biodiversity, microbial and viral ecology,molecular biology, and ecological aspects of infectious diseases. Monroe and his colleagues have colleaborated with faculty from the University of Nairobi investigating microbial extremophiles and their viruses in soda lakes of the Great Rift Valley. Currently the genomics aspects of this research has led to applications in vaccine and nanomedicine development which we will incorporate into our educational programs at USM and in teacher professional development and classroom outreach.
During his fellowship, Monroe will promote existing elements such as Saturday morning courses and lab workshops for K-12 teachers, some of which are connected with courses such as the infectious disease epidemiology course taken by bioscience and public health graduate students. Monroe will address the transformation process in bioscience education at the University of Southern Maine by working with colleagues to develop at least one new SENCER course on campus, possibly with emphasis on involving pre-service teachers as well as other science students. A major professional focus for Monroe is the success of a vaccine development project that involves synthetic biology directed toward nanotechnology and nanomedicine applications. This research emphasis, combined with educational goals, has rich possibilities for engaging students and a team of colleagues in a new course built on SENCER principles that will go far in meeting the challenges put forth in the Vision and Change call to action.