CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., July 16, 2008 – Southeast Missouri State University chemistry professor Dr. Rachel Morgan Theall has been awarded a $100,000 grant under the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Discovery Corps Fellowships program to conduct research relating to attitudes and understanding of forensic science and teaching forensic science concepts.
The funds will also be used to provide professional development workshops for area middle and high school teachers regarding inquiry-based laboratory activities that effectively relate the concepts of forensic chemistry to their students. Morgan Theall will build her southeast Missouri program on similar work she conducted at the University of Arizona in conjunction with the Flandreau Science Center, when she first developed the “Science in the City” project and several interactive science exhibits.
“Quality education relies on information and advancements in knowledge produced by researchers in a laboratory. The classroom is my laboratory,” Morgan Theall said. “The research that can now be conducted because of this award will help to link cutting-edge science research and education research with science classrooms, specifically in the area of forensic chemistry.”
Leveraging the increased popularity of crime dramas such as “CSI,” “Law and Order” and “Cold Case,” the first “Science in the City Workshop” will focus on forensic chemistry for grades 5-12 teachers and will tie together Southeast Missouri State’s chemistry degree programs and faculty expertise with educational materials and experiments for participating students, the community and area schools. Very little current, peer-reviewed material has been developed for middle and high school teachers to use in the area of forensic chemistry, but the general public is bombarded with images of forensics through the crime television programs.
Morgan Theall’s research agenda and workshops will help identify and address some of the common misconceptions about forensic chemistry and will offer educators practical tools and activities that can be used to teach middle and high school students about forensic chemistry as well as advise the forensic chemistry programs at the University.
Morgan Theall joined the Department of Chemistry at Southeast Missouri State University in the fall of 2007. She completed a doctoral degree in chemistry at Arizona State University in 2003. As a graduate student in chemistry education, she received an NSF GK-12 Fellowship to work with teachers and high school students enrolled at an at risk school in downtown Phoenix. Upon graduation, Morgan Theall developed inquiry science education materials on the science of information technology for the NSF funded Science and Technology Center on Materials and Devices for Information Technology Research. At the time of her award in 2005, Morgan Theall became one of only six post- doctoral researchers to receive a NSF Discovery Corps Fellowship. Her work for the Discovery Corps included studying the development of interactive science exhibits by high school students for Flandrau Science Center in Tucson, Ariz.
The Discovery Corps Fellowship program is intended to fund ambitious programs that fully integrate research, education, and professional service and that address areas of national need (including enhanced research capacity, workforce development and innovative linkages between chemistry and other fields). In addition to funding post doctoral and senior level fellowships (10-plus years of service in chemistry), a maximum of five faculty development grants are awarded per year of which only three have been awarded to date.
Information for teachers interested in participating in the Science in the City Workshop series will be available this fall.