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Dr. Donna Pattison Spotlighting a UH Woman Each Month

What is your position and title at UH?
Instructional Associate Professor and Assistant Chair of Undergraduate Affairs  

How long have you worked here?
7 years (since August 2006)

What are your job responsibilities and duties?
I coordinate the Biochemistry Laboratory courses. I write curriculum for the courses and train and oversee the teaching assistants for the course. On the administrative side, I assist with class and room scheduling, closed section requests, and teaching evaluations for the department. I am the Co-Director on a Comprehensive Student Success program grant aimed at increasing student success in our Introductory and General Biology courses.

Do you teach or engage in research and if so, can you detail?
I currently coordinate the Biochemistry I and II Laboratory courses. In the past, I have also taught Molecular Biology, Plant Physiology, and Biochemistry I lecture courses, as well as coordinated the Cell and Developmental Biology Laboratory course and the Introductory Biology II Laboratory course in the summer.

My research interests are two-fold. I am interested in (1) the development, implementation, and evaluation of effective instructional methods and (2) the development of biomaterials form Drosophila melanogaster ultrabithorax protein.

My current work in instructional methods involves our Introductory and General Biology courses. I currently serve as the Co-Director on a Comprehensive Student Success Program grant aimed at improving the rate of successful completion of students enrolled in these courses.

On the scientific research side, undergraduate students in my Biochemistry II Laboratory course design their own projects around biomaterials created from ultrabithorax protein. The protein self-aggregates into “ropes” or thin fibers and sheets and is remarkably stable. The project is designed to provide students with a true research experience and an opportunity to contribute to the knowledge base on biomaterials.

If you teach, what is your teaching philosophy?
I believe the role of an instructor is to facilitate the development of students to their full potential as individuals. Education is more than just the acquisition of a lot of memorized facts to be taken out and dusted off as needed later. Students need to learn how to approach learning in a rapidly changing world and how the knowledge they are acquiring is applied.

What do you enjoy about your work?
I enjoy working with students, particularly with the BCHS4311 students on their self-designed, original research class projects. The creativity and enthusiasm they bring to the project is contagious. I love spending time in the Science Building greenhouse and up on the greenroof on the Keeland Building. It’s a really fun part of my job and the students keep things interesting as projects develop and change over the years.

What are your career goals in the next five years?
Over the next five years I hope to publish a biochemistry lab manual suitable for use at other universities with large enrollments in this course. It’s nearly finished. I also hope to help establish a professional development program for K-12 teachers in the life sciences as well as provide regular outreach activities to local schools. I have also submitted a bid, in conjunction with Dr. Ana Medrano and Dr. Tejendra Gill, to host the Association for Biology Laboratory Education Conference at the University of Houston in 2016.

What is your proudest accomplishment?
My proudest accomplishment thus far is the implementation of our Comprehensive Student Success Program grant. Peer-led recitation sections were introduced in our large enrollment introductory biology courses. Curriculum was designed to reinforce the lecture material and to simultaneously help students improve their study skills. A departmental faculty teaching workshop was introduced, new interactive activities for the lecture hall were designed, and a field trip program and an advising program were implemented. The team is happy to report that our Fall 2012 data indicates that the program made a significant difference in decreasing our DFW rate in our majors biology course. This year, we are expanding our program to include more sections.

What advice or encouragement would you give UH staff and students?
My advice would be to get involved in campus life, whether you are a student or staff or faculty. It’s an exciting, dynamic place if you dive in and participate. It’s easy to find groups with similar interests where you can meet over lunch to swap ideas or participate in scheduled activities. The more involved you get, the more people you know, the more fun the student experience or job experience.

What is something about you than many co-workers and students do not know about you?
I am the founder and Director of Shimmer Flute Choir. The group is made up of both amateur and professional musicians from all over the Houston area. We perform at a variety of venues in the Houston area and recorded our first CD in 2012. For more information please see our web site: or “like” us on Facebook.