Notre Dame College Faculty Teaching Through Research Selected for President's Lecture

A Notre Dame College faculty member engaging undergraduates with genetic research related to endometrial cancers and Lyme disease has been selected to present the 2017 President’s Lecture.

Matthew Logan Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, will discuss three ways he and his colleagues at Notre Dame teach sciences through scholarly inquiry. These approaches involve a national collaborative in genetics study, a course-based experience shared between laboratories in Ohio and Florida and a traditional molecular and genetic research approach.

Johnson’s submission, “The Pedagogy of Having Students Answer the Unknown: Teaching Through Research,” was selected by external reviewers. He will present at the College’s annual President’s Lecture on Tuesday, April 18, in the Great Room of the main Administration Building on the Notre Dame campus. The event, sponsored by the College’s Office of the President with the Notre Dame Faculty Affairs and Development Committee is by invitation only.

“Undergraduate courses traditionally have focused on principles, such as exact measurements, observational skills and proper record-keeping. While these are important, they often lack the excitement and intellectual challenge that students face when engaging in genuine scientific research,” Johnson wrote in his submission.

Two additional faculty submissions for the President’s Lecture—a student composting social enterprise and an analysis of the moral laws of philosopher Edgar S. Brightman—were recognized as commendable.

These faculty, among others, are expected to present at Notre Dame’s annual Faculty Research Symposium from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, April 21, also in the Great Room at the College. The symposium is part of Notre Dame’s Celebration of Scholarship, which will feature student projects ranging from research posters to scholarly lectures, mobile apps to creative performances.

One of the two commendable President’s Lecture submissions this year is from Tracey Meilander, Ph.D., associate professor of biology, in collaboration with William L. Leamon, M.B.A., M.O.D., M.H.R., assistant professor of entrepreneurship. The project is “NDC Campus Composters: Integrating Mission-based Science, Social Entrepreneurship, Service and Sustainability.” Meilander also is program director of Choose Ohio First STEMM@NDC and co-director of community-based learning at Notre Dame. She recently has been named A Distinguished STEM Professor at the College. Leamon is director of Notre Dame’s Enterprise Development Center, called EDC@NDC.

Also noted as commendable for the President’s Lecture is J. Edward Hackett, Ph.D., visiting instructor of philosophy, and his submission, “Why Ethics is a Normative Science: An Analysis of Brightman’s Moral Laws.”

Teaching Through Research

In the 2017 President’s Lecture, Johnson will address three initiatives that have engaged nearly 100 undergraduate students in scientific inquiry at the College.

Some of these research projects continue to involve newly graduated Notre Dame students now working in labs at the Cleveland Clinic and Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Administration Medical Center, among others. According to Johnson, several of these recent alumni also have entered Ph.D. programs.

“Together, these three approaches to undergraduate science education highlight different methods for achieving pedagogical best practices by incorporating relevant undergraduate research throughout the curriculum,” he stated in his submission.

Through the national collaborative called the Genomics Education Partnership (GEP), which provides students with sections of DNA sequence that they are responsible to annotate, 21 Notre Dame students over the last three years have studied about 1.25 million base pairs of genomic data.

Two students who participated in the GEP project were selected to present their research at regional and national conferences, The Ohio Academy of Science and the Allied Genetics Conference, respectively.

Johnson also has been engaging 33 Notre Dame students with a form of active learning known as Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE). In this project, the undergraduates are attempting to find the potential mechanisms that the bacteria that causes Lyme disease uses to attack the immune system of an estimated 300,000 people in the United States each year.

This hands-on experience in the Cell and Molecular Biology class at the College also involves a laboratory at the University of Central Florida.

Additionally, Johnson uses a traditional molecular and genetic research laboratory project approach to lead 50 Notre Dame students in examining the fruit fly gene similar to the human gene JAZF1. JAZF1 is associated with the formation of Endometrial Stromal Sarcomas and may be acting as a cancer-driver gene, according to the faculty member.

“Because science is not static, these research experiences are best achieved when professors, having academic freedom over their course content, invite students to step out onto the ledge of understanding and attempt to answer the unknown,” Johnson wrote in his submission.

About the President’s Lecture

The President’s Lecture is one way to recognize scholarly activities of faculty members at Notre Dame.

 Through scholarly endeavors, faculty demonstrate their commitment to ongoing academic excellence and intellectual curiosity in their fields of study and expertise. Faculty participate in diverse types of scholarship, such as discovery, teaching, engagement and integration, which align with the College mission.

As the faculty model intellectual inquiry, critical thinking and creativity, students benefit from this knowledge and experience. Their scholarly pursuits are essential to teaching, mentoring and inspiring students as they engage in the academic curriculum and co-curricular activities at the College.

The complete list of Faculty Research Symposium and Student Scholar Day project presentations are outlined in an online version of the poster for Celebration of Scholarship 2017.

29 March 2017

About Notre Dame College

For almost a century, Notre Dame College has educated a diverse population in the liberal arts for personal, professional and global responsibility. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, the College has grown strategically to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of students and the dramatic changes in higher education. But it has never lost sight of its emphasis on teaching students not only how to make a good living but also how to live a good life.

Today, the College offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines plus a variety of master's degrees, certification programs and continuing and professional development programs for adult learners on campus and online. Notre Dame College offers NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs for men and women and is located in a picturesque residential neighborhood just 25 minutes from the heart of Cleveland. Hallmarks of the Notre Dame experience include stimulating academics, personalized attention of dedicated faculty and staff, and small class sizes.

Notre Dame College is located at 4545 College Road in South Euclid. For further information contact Brian Johnston, chief communications officer, at 216.373.5252 or



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