Apr 11, 2011
By Jessica Fangman
It's not every day that a graduate student from Ohio University accumulates a fan club while participating in a cutting-edge online learning community.
Betsy Justus, currently pursuing her doctorate in the Department of Environmental and Plant Biology, is one such student. Through a unique mentoring program, Justus decided to step outside of her own role as a learner to teach secondary school students the fundamentals of plant biology.
According to Science magazine, Justus has joined more than 500 scientists from 14 professional plant-related organizations in hopes of enhancing science classroom experience. The PlantingScience website (www.plantingscience.org) has allowed her to stay in constant contact with her students by simply utilizing the site's innovative blog.
Justus explained that this forum elicits interaction between science experts and students while they explore various scientific topics and experiments. Mentors hope to foster academic growth through inquiry-based suggestions and questions.
"One way I assist students is by probing them to think. It's important that they test the logic behind what they are doing and think creatively," Justus said.
Many would think that a striving graduate student would have no time for a commitment such as this. However, Justus genuinely enjoys her work and doesn't have a problem with the time commitment.
"It's fun because the kids hold you up so high for being a scientist. I think they really benefit from talking to someone in the research field doing current research," Justus said.
This type of dedication and perseverance did not go unnoticed. In March, Justus was recognized by the highly acclaimed Science magazine. Not only were her contributions to the program noted, but her name was chosen to begin the accredited essay.*
In addition to mentioning Justus by name, the essay also exhibits that the PlantingScience initiative has won the prestigious Science Prize for Online Resources in Education (SPORE). An honor that everyone involved within the outreach program can be proud of.
Originally from southern India, Justus completed her undergraduate and masters degree in India before enrolling at Ohio University to pursue her doctorate. After finishing her studies within molecular and cell biology, she hopes to teach at the college level.
Associate Professor of Environmental and Plant Biology Sarah Wyatt, who is Justus' academic adviser, said Justus enjoys teaching and working with students.
"Betsy does an excellent job both in the classroom and in one-on-one mentoring of undergraduate researchers in the lab. I think this project is a natural extension of that willingness and ability to share with others," Wyatt added.
For more information on the PlantingScience initiative, visit www.plantingscience.org.*