Science teacher selected to attend national research conference
Upper St. Clair High School science teacher Dr. Colin A. Syme is one of 200 teachers selected to attend the Society Research Teachers Conference from Sept. 30 – Oct. 2, 2016, in Washington, D.C.
Sponsored by the Society for Science & the Public, the annual conference brings together science research teachers at all levels of experience to share best practices, troubleshoot the challenges involved in supporting students in independent science research, and learn more about the Regeneron Science Talent Search and the Society.
“Since this conference is being attended by 200 teachers nationwide (100 previous attendees and 100 new attendees), it is an amazing opportunity for me,” Dr. Syme said.
This year Dr. Syme is teaching a pilot STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) course at the high school titled Laboratory Research And Techniques in Science (LabRATS).
“The conference is on establishing science research programs at the high school level, so it will be an opportunity to see how other educators deliver this content in the classroom,” Dr. Syme said. “There are many sessions/workshops at the conference, which range from the basics of beginning a research program at a high school to how to obtain grant funding and develop collaborations with researchers in academia and industry. I am looking for opportunities to enhance this programming at the high school to provide a real-life, authentic learning experience for students.”
The conference will include large group and break-out sessions and address topics like completing research in a high school lab, finding and placing students in summer programs, obtaining pre-approval for projects relating to humans and animals, combating plagiarism, reaching underserved students, and more.
“I am hoping that the varied content from the conference will provide not only some insight and guidance for my own efforts moving forward but, hopefully, also provide some ideas for other science teachers, and, possibly, some insight for the high school administration on how these programs are accommodated in the schedule,” Dr. Syme said. “Since a strategic goal of the school district is focused on re-imagining the high school, this conference may provide information on how to best fit research into the schedule.”
The Society for Science & the Public covers all expenses for the 200 conference attendees.
“It is exciting when we see our colleagues move from being great teachers in the classroom to also becoming leaders of thinking and innovation within their discipline,” Dr. Lou Angelo, Upper St. Clair High School principal, said.
Dr. Syme joined the Upper St. Clair High School science faculty in 2009. In addition to the LabRATS course, he currently teaches Honors Anatomy & Physiology and has also taught biology.
A native of Scotland, Dr. Syme earned a doctorate in Physiology from Aberdeen University and a bachelor’s degree in immunology and pharmacology from Strathclyde University. Both universities are located in Scotland. In addition, he completed his teacher certification at Duquesne University.
“I moved to Pittsburgh from Scotland to work as a postdoctoral scientific researcher at the University of Pittsburgh in 1998, which I did until 2007,” he said. “I conducted research in areas including cystic fibrosis, osteoporosis and diabetes.”
Subsequently, Dr. Syme served as an adjunct faculty member at LaRoche College, teaching Anatomy & Physiology, and at the University of Pittsburgh, teaching freshman biology labs. He has published more than 10 peer-reviewed publications.
While teaching at Upper St. Clair, Dr. Syme was awarded a $2,000 ING Unsung Heroes Award
in 2012 for his proposal titled, “Zebra Fish: A Tool for Project-based Learning.”