By Kaine Korzekwa
There are careers in science that incorporate both hard work and enjoyment, says Gregory Richards, an assistant professor of biological sciences at the University of Wisconsin–Parkside.
Richards received his PhD in microbiology in 2008 from UW–Madison and now splits his time between teaching, research, and outreach activities at UW–Parkside.
“After undergrad at Madison I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” he explains. “I took a lab manager job at Madison and there, and throughout graduate school afterward, countless people showed me how we can work hard in science and discover great things but also have a fun time and a life outside of science.”
During graduate school, his mentors helped him cultivate his love of teaching and science education. He was a teaching assistant and also mentored undergraduates in his lab and adds these are great experiences to pursue for students interested in teaching.
The Wisconsin Program for Scientific Teaching gave him even more teaching expertise with classes on curriculum design and pedagogy. The program helps students develop course materials and then put them to use in a real classroom setting.
“I started to recognize this disconnect between the old school way of teaching science, one where we memorize facts in a passive manner, and a new and more active learning style.” Richards says.
“I work to instill in my students that science is a moving and dynamic process that we use to systematically find answers to questions and problems.”
When Richards isn’t teaching or researching how bacteria deal with stress, he enjoys participating in outreach activities or engaging with the media. He likes to bring analogies and even music into the classroom or when talking to the public.
“It’s all about making the process of science more transparent for students and other audiences,” he says. “I like teaching students the process of science instead of just the procedures. It teaches them how to think like a scientist and understand how things really work in a lab instead of being overwhelmed by details. I want undergrads and grad students alike to know you can do all of these things and learn how to be a scientist but there’s no reason you can’t have fun while doing it.”