Biology lab instructor: There’s always something new
MCLA recently welcomed Dr. Anne Todorski to campus and the Feigenbaum Center for Science and Innovation, where she is a biology laboratory instructor. There, she enjoys seeing students engaged in their research and experiments, as well as their enthusiasm for their discoveries.
“In biology, there always is something new to learn,” Todorski said. “Biology is a constantly changing and adapting field, much like its subject matter. New technology and new data is always emerging, allowing scientists to bring a deeper understanding to the way things work around us.”
With a particular interest in environmental biology and plant science, Todorski’s dissertation focused on the way that the floating fern Azolla removes and reacts to contaminants in the aquatic environment.
“I think the idea of using naturally occurring processes to clean up anthropogenic messes is a novel approach,” she explained, “but, like any technology, it needs to be well understood before it can be used to its full potential.”
It was this interest in phytoremediation – the direct use of green plants and their associated microorganisms to stabilize or reduce contamination in soils, sludges, sediments, surface water or ground water – that prompted her to continue her studies.
“I wanted to spend more time studying it,” Todorski said.”Pursuing a graduate degree gave me the opportunity to do so.”
In addition to helping to teach one section of the “Introductory Biology” labs, she’s responsible for all of the biology laboratories.
“This semester the biology department has nine different lab courses running throughout the week, many with multiple sections. It is a big undertaking to make sure everything is prepared, set out, and picked up in a timely manner,” Todorski explained.
“I enjoy teaching,” she added. “Teaching at the college level is enjoyable because you get to address topics more in depth, and most of the students are taking a college class because they have some level of interest in it to begin with.”
She hopes her students learn that biology isn't just about memorizing facts.
“Biology can also be applied, used to solve problems or answer questions,” Todorski explained. “Today, anyone can easily obtain information – you can pick up a smart phone, pop on the Internet and there are answers galore at your fingertips.
“Developing independent thoughts, asking questions, understanding how to develop a hypothesis and design and run a good experiment, and how to interpret results, are skills which can only be really learned through practice.”
Like the students she works with, Todorski earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in biology at a small, liberal arts college – Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. A native of Vermont, she holds a Ph.D. in biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.
She decided to come to MCLA because of its focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), and because we are a liberal arts college.
“I believe having a liberal arts background gives a scientist a more creative edge in solving problems,” Todorski said. “I look forward to helping more students conduct independent research projects, and to providing help where needed in the growing biology department.”