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Skill Set: Juniata Biochemist to Talk on How Math Talent Affects Science Retention

(Posted December 3, 2007)

Michael Boyle, von Liebig Chair in Biomedical Science

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Take a group of incoming Juniata College science students and test their math skills, plus their attitude toward mathematics, and it adds up to an interesting analysis of how colleges can retain students who want to pursue careers in science in the talk "Quantitative Skills and Retention of Students in Science Disciplines\" at 4:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 11 in Neff Lecture Hall in the von Liebig Center for Science on the Juniata campus.
The lecture is free and open to the public.
Michael Boyle, von Liebig Chair in Biomedical Science, will discuss a project where all freshman biology class students were given a simple math quiz (to be taken without a calculator) and a survey of their attitudes toward mathematics. The project came about when statistics revealed that 48 percent of the entire freshman class in the years 1999-2003 entered Juniata with an interest in science. About 52 percent of that original group earned degrees in the natural sciences.
Juniata faculty teaching courses with significant math requirements estimated that 30 to 40 percent of the students interested in science in their freshman year lacked the quantitative science skills needed to succeed in their chosen discipline. The preliminary data from these tests will be discussed and analyzed with attention paid to how to improve retention in science classes and improve science teaching.
Neil Pelkey, assistant professor of environmental science and information technology, will also speak briefly on how a software program Quantshop, might help some of the concerns about scientific literacy.
Boyle came to Juniata in 2002 from the Medical College of Ohio, where he was professor of microbiology and immunology. At Juniata, he supervises undergraduate research projects and helps design research components within Juniata\'s existing science classes. Currently his research focuses on two areas: using immunotechnology to adapt antibodies as the basis for diagnostics and other tests; and the study of pathogen interactions.
Boyle earned a bachelor\'s degree in biochemistry from the University of Glasgow, in Glasgow, Scotland in 1971. He earned a doctorate from the Chester Beatty Research Institute, Belmont, Sutton in Surrey, England. He began his academic career in 1981 as an associate professor of immunology at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville, Fla. He was promoted to full professor in 1985.
Boyle joined the faculty of the Medical College of Ohio (MCO) in 1988. From 1999 until coming to Juniata, he directed of the college\'s pathogenesis and immunology program within the newly created MCO Cancer Center.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.