Pedagogical Innovation

As a community of educators our faculty use research-based methods of teaching, strive for innovation, and share best teaching practices. We bring diverse interests and varied experiences to classroom instruction and, through our enthusiasm, convey to our students the excitement inherent in the study of biology. Many of our faculty have been recognized with teaching awards. Listen to our recent Tina & Bellet Teaching Excellence Award winners talk about their work:

In addition, our faculty undertake Science Education Research.


Teaching Awards

Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award

Graham Hatfull, Biological Sciences (2011)
Jeffrey Brodsky, Biological Sciences (2008)

Provost's Diversity in the Curriculum Award

Erica McGreevy, Department of Biological Sciences with Kevin Binning, Department of Psychology and Chandralekha Singh, Department of Physics and Astronomy (2019)

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This award is for a belonging intervention used in Foundations of Biology 1 that you can read about in a PittWire article.

Tina & David Bellet Teaching Excellence Award

Erica McGreevy, Biological Sciences (2020)

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Alison Slinskey-Legg, Biological Sciences (2017)

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Rick A. Relyea, Biological Sciences (2014)

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Anthony Bledsoe, Biological Sciences (2006)

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Iain Campbell, Biological Sciences (2000)

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Pedagogical Innovations

Discipline-Based Science Education Research (dB-SERC) Grants for Course Transformations


Transforming undergraduate physiology laboratory by using web-based data acquisition and analyses setup to run lab instruments

Burhan Gharaibeh, Department of Biological Sciences

Physiology Laboratory will be transformed to using a web-based platform, LabChart. This transformation will increase student engagement in the labs, initiate more interaction among group members, and increase the depth of learning of physiological concepts.

Stop and drop a definition: Using dual-process theory to improve student performance on essay-type questions

Kirill Kiselyov, Department of Biological Sciences

Improved essay-style questions for an upper level cell biology lecture course will be developed that will allow students to fully show their knowledge during the essay-type formative assessment tasks to improve student engagement and performance in the course.

Increasing student belonging and self-efficacy while leveraging a virtual learning environment via primary literature and author interactions

Mentor, Jessica Stephonson; graduate student mentees, Rachel Kramp and Faith Rovenolt; Department of Biological Sciences

This project aims to engage students in an upper-level animal behavior course to analyze primary literature and discuss the concepts with the articles author via videoconferencing. The goal is to improve student belonging and self-efficacy while helping them develop a good grasp of foundational concepts.


Transforming Large Lecture-Based STEM Courses Through Personalized Coaching: Establishing ECoach at Pitt

Jessica Wandelt, Department of Biological Sciences; Jennifer Ganger, Department of Psychology; and Kitty Liu, Department of Chemistry

BIOSC 0805 The Human Body for Non-Majors will be redesigned to incorporate the personalized online coaching tool ECoach along with other courses in the Departments of Psychology and Chemistry. The tool will be shared with other educators in large STEM courses.


The impact of presentation exchange on learning and professional development of undergraduate students

Kirill Kiselyov, Department of Biological Sciences

Kiselyov’s unique peer-reviewed presentation exchange gives students the opportunity to engage with contemporary literature in the field by presenting a paper review online. This year, he will connect his students with experts in the field to gauge the effectiveness of the presentation exchange.

Using 3D printed models to promote student understanding of macromolecular structure/function and spatial interactions

Zuzana Swigonova and Laura Zapanta, Department of Biological Sciences

Understanding the function and interactions of macromolecules is essential for modern biology and biochemistry, but students often struggle to visualize these complex structures. To help students, Swigonova and Zapanta are 3D printing color-coded, structurally informative, scientifically accurate models that they will use as a focus for student learning activities in their classrooms.


Using TopHat to personalize student learning and expand the scientific skillset in a large biological science classroom

Candice Damiani, Department of Biological Sciences

It can be tough to meet the needs of individual students in large introductory courses. However, with the aid of TopHat, an in-class, online learning platform, Damiani hopes to hone in on students’ individual needs. This program will help asses individual students’ strengths and weaknesses through tests students can take on their own electronics during class.

Storytelling in cell biology: Vertically integrating a complicated class

Kirill Kiselyov, Department of Biological Sciences

Complicated biological processes will be broken down into digestible “storylines” for students in his cell biology course. These stories will be given to different groups of students who will fill out the details using concepts discussed in class.


Engaging student scientists to enhance our understanding of forest degradation and promote inquiry based scientific skills

Walter Carson, Department of Biological Sciences

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Increasing the pass rate of biology 1-repeating students and increasing student persistence in STEM

Kathryn Gardner, Nancy Kaufmann, and Erica McGreevy, Department of Biological Sciences


Using technology to scale up innovative research-based introductory laboratories

Welkin Pope, Department of Biological Sciences

Implementation of peer reviewed presentations in a biology course

Kirill Kiselyov, Department of Biological Sciences


Integrating modeling instruction throughout a large lecture introductory biology course

Mentor, Samuel Donovan; graduate student mentee, Lisa Limeri; Department of Biological Sciences

Provost Course Incubator Grant


Transforming Foundations of Biology 1 and 2

Suzanna Gribble, Lesley Ashmore, Candice Damiani, Samuel Donovan, Kathryn Gardner, Erica McGreevy, Valerie Oke, Linda O’Reilly, Laurel Roberts, Zuzana Swigonova and Laura Zapanta

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Provost Open Education Resources Grants


Computational Biology for All! Development of an interactive, accessible, and student-customizable computational biology text

Nathan Brouwer, Department of Biological Sciences

Development of Open Educational Resources Suitable for a Majors Microbiology Course

Candice Damiani and Erica McGreevy, Department of Biological Sciences


Peer Teaching in a Large Enrollment Class

Linda O'Reilly, Department of Biology

Microbiology Lab Open Education Resources

Kimberly Payne, Department of Biology

Provost Forge Your Own Path - Personalized Education Grants


Biology Transfer Students: Building Personalized Connections

Jessica Wandelt (PI), Kevin Wu, Christine Berliner, Candice Damiani, Department of Biological Sciences; Mary Mulcahy, and Lauren Yaich, Division of Biological and Health Sciences at Pitt Bradford

Personalized Course Coaching at Scale: Bringing ECoach to Pitt

Jessica Wandelt, Department of Biological Sciences; Jennifer Ganger, Department of Psychology; and Kitty Liu, Department of Chemistry


Biology Career Exploration Academic Communities (BioCEAC; “BioSeek”)

Kevin Wu and Ellen Kelsey, Department of Biological Sciences

Biology Transfer Students: A Personalized Approach

Jessica Wandelt and Christine Berliner, Department of Biological Sciences; Melissa Warthen, Director of New Student Programs

Provost Innovation in Education Grants


Enhancing the Introductory Biology Curriculum: Learning in the Context of Current Research Practices and Building STEM Communities Through a Flipped Classroom

Zuzana Swigonova, Department of Biological Sciences


ProteinVR: Micro and Structural Biology in a Virtual World

Jacob Durrant, Department of Biological Sciences

A pre-assessment tool for new and critical insights to guide Foundations of Biology 1

Suzanna Gribble, Department of Biological Sciences


Losing the Lecture: Student-Centered, Inquiry-Based Learning in an Entry-Level Biology Course

Lydia Daniels, Department of Biological Sciences

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Outreach Education Grants

The STEM PUSH Network: A National Alliance of PreCollege Stem Programs and accreditation system to broaden participation in STEM fields.

NSF INCLUDES Program. Alison Slinskey Legg (PI). Total award:  $10M. (2019-2024).