Assistant Professor of Environmental Science at Barnard College
I am currently an assistant professor of environmental science at Barnard College. I am the principal investigator leading The Brenner Lab. We answer questions about past and modern climate and coastal conditions by studying stony coral geochemistry.
Frontiers of Science at Columbia University (2017-2019)
Frontiers of Science is the interdisciplinary core science requirement for all Columbia College students. Frontiers introduces students to different topics from the forefront of four scientific fields (Neuroscience, Astrophysics, Biodiversity, and Earth Science) while instilling and practicing quantitative reasoning skills. We call these skills Scientific Habits of Mind, which are characteristic of the scientific inquiry. Weekly lectures provide the reference context and small class seminars allow students to more deeply explore the frontiers through discussions, experiments, debates, projects, and more.
Teaching Observation Fellowship (TOF)
Fall 2016-2017 I was a Teaching Observation Fellow with Columbia's Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). As a fellow I will be working with the CTL to "design, implement, and assess elements of teaching" to improve my skills through a series of lectures, workshops, and peer-to-peer evaluations. During the second half of the fellowship I worked with CTL teaching consultants to do evaluations requested by professors in the Columbia community.
Innovative Teaching Summer Institute (ITSI)
ITSI is a week-long intensive workshop with discussions, presentations, and activities aimed at teaching graduate students how to incorporate innovative techniques into their classrooms. The workshop was sponsored by Columbia University's (CTL). We focused on developing learning goals, using formative and summative assessments, and hands-on activities to create engaging lesson plans. Prior to the workshop we developed an innovative lesson plan and throughout the week we edited and altered it to reflect what we learned. The evolution of my lesson plan reflected my new commitment to audience participation, peer review, and communication to a variety of audiences.
Fellowship in Academic Administration
In Fall 2016 I am going to be a Fellow in Columbia Student Advising (CSA) working with Academic Resources in Support of Academic Excellence (ARISE). As a fellow with ARISE I will help organize and execute the annual training for new undergraduate tutors, assist with hiring, observe and evaluate tutors, and plan and facilitate academic skills workshops. I look forward to molding this experience to learn more about academic policy at the university level.
Citizen Schools Teaching Apprenticeship
The goal of Citizen Schools is to put Citizen Teachers into the classroom, graduate students and professionals interested in teaching about a given topic and sharing their own real world experiences in their field. As an apprentice we received training from Citizen Schools and regularly met with the classroom teacher to discuss the best plan for our students. I worked with other graduate students in a middle school classroom at the Renaissance Leadership Academy and adapted a curriculum on natural disasters I previously co-developed. We included a dice game about the water cycle, built our own water filtration systems, measured s- and p-waves from earthquakes using a game of tag, and measured impact craters from foil meteors falling into trays of flour. Citizen Schools after school curricula all lead to a WOW project that students present in the community and the school at large fostering their communication, collaboration, and data analysis skills.
New York Academy of Sciences Afterschool STEM Mentoring
The NYAS STEM Mentoring program places graduate and postdoctoral scientists in underserved middle schools in New York, New York and Newark, NJ to teach a weekly afterschool science class. I co-developed a semester long curriculum on natural disasters and work with another graduate student in a combined 7th and 8th grade class in Harlem, NY. Each lesson was split into two sections: a mini lecture followed by a hands-on experiment or activity. We covered hurricanes, earthquakes, water shortage, volcanoes, and meteor strikes, to name a few. After completing the semester I received NYAS Mentoring Credentials
Outreach with Columbia University and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Columbia University and Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO) are constantly organizing events to involve the public and K-12 students. This is a great way to get connected to the community and teach science in fun, new ways using hands-on experiments.
Lamont Open House
Every other year LDEO opens its campus to the public for a day of lab tours, experiments, lectures, and more. This is a wonderful and well known event attracting thousands of visitors. Many labs have presentations to explain their work and experiments to engage children and adults, alike. I am a member of the Stable Isotope Lab, primarily using corals to reconstruct past climate conditions. I developed an activity that simulated the coral collection process. Using a tray of layered art dough, I recreated the layers found in a coral skeleton. Participants used wide bubble tea straws as the drill and removed cylindrical cores. We follow this coring process on a reef and I explained the significance of using layers to create a chronology and participants created their own age model based on the number of layers that they retrieved from their dough cores.
Girls' Science Day (GSD)
Columbia University regularly holds the Girls' Science Day event for local middle schools. Groups participate in multiple activities throughout the day with the goal of exposing them to lab activities across a broad range of topics. I helped organize two lesson plans for different GSD events. The first activity helped students understand the principle parsimony (the simplest explanation is correct). Using plastic toy animals, participants created a phylogenetic tree showing the evolutionary relationships they thought were most likely based on shared characteristics in the animals. The other activity I created was similar to the one conducted at the LDEO open house. Using layered art dough I simulated the ocean floor and used wide bubble tea straws to simulate the sediment coring process. Each color represented a different part of the shore line and examining the order of the layers in the core students were able to determine when sea level rose or fell.
Science Saturday Starters (S3)
S3 is similar to the GSD but is on a smaller scale and open to both boys and girls. I developed an activity to teach about the porosity (the empty space/pores in a material) and permeability (the degree to which those empty spaces/pores are connected) in different sediment and soil types. This was particularly relevant after the flooding from Hurricane Sandy. Young students saw first hand what happened to water when it could not infiltrate into the ground, making this a very relevant activity. We filled clear plastic cups with coarse sediment, fine sediment/gravel, and soil. Students tracked the flow of dyed water with a stop watch and made observations about how fast the water infiltrated, patterns in infiltration, and whether water pooled on top of the cup.