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Santa Cruz, CA

Vikram Baliga, PhD Candidate at UC Santa Cruz, member of the Mehta Lab. Areas of study: ecology, ontogeny, morphometrics, and comparative methods.

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I'm going to be a SCWIBLEr

Vikram Baliga

This year marks an exhilarating change in my grad school career. I have been selected to receive an NSF GK-12 graduate fellowship as part of a graduate training program for STEM students at UC Santa Cruz. This program, entitled Santa Cruz-Watsonville Inquiry-Based Learning in Environmental Sciences, or SCWIBLES, makes it possible for fellows like me to further develop our scientific communication skills by working with high school students. Although I really enjoyed being a TA for classes at UCSC, I'm excited to develop inquiry-based curricula for students at Watsonville High School in Watsonville, CA.

I'll first be paired with a partner teacher from Watsonville High, who will work with me in the Mehta Lab at UCSC this summer. In this research partnership, my teacher partner will assist me in collecting and analyzing data for my dissertation work. This will be a win-win situation for both of us: I'll directly benefit by having a research assistant, and my teacher partner will learn techniques used in comparative anatomy and see how researchers work.

During the academic school year, I will travel to Watsonville High School a few times per week to not only design and implement lab exercises (which we call "modules"), but also to be the "fun science guy". The SCWIBLES program places special emphasis on inquiry-based learning techniques, whereby students are educated about a concept (as a form of "scaffolding"), and are then encouraged to design their own experiments to further develop their knowledge. As a scientist, I'm very interested in helping students develop their analytical skills to properly implement the scientific method. I'm also very curious to see how effective inquiry-based teaching methods can be in piquing natural curiosity. I'm sure it will be a rewarding experience!