Dana Philipps: Science Teacher

Dana Philipps works in science communication in Clark, NJ. She teaches high school biology and volunteers for a number of science-based community activities. 

What do you do?

I trained as a research scientist for 8 years (earning a PhD in biomedical science from the University of Connecticut Health Center and a post doctoral fellowship at Cornell) before transitioning to science communication a little over 10 years ago. My primary job is teaching high school biology, but I also do freelance medical writing, tutoring, co-advising of the Science Olympiad and volunteering with 4H youth groups. I realized that as much as I enjoy bench work, I'm most passionate​ about talking about science and getting others excited to learn new things.

Why is your work important?

When I worked in molecular biology labs, I generated data and published articles that other scientists could read. While I'm proud that I helped advance our collective knowledge, I suspect that I've made a far greater impact on society by teaching roughly 1000 students over the past decade. Several former students have let me know they went onto medical, dental or research careers. Even the kids who didn't go into science professionally walk out of my classroom scientifically literate. That's pretty cool.

What's something cool you've experienced? 

I love to travel so I took my family to Iceland last summer during our break. We went to the Blue Lagoon spa while there. This year I implemented "SciFridays" in my class - student run discussions about current events in biology. One of my students chose an article about a newly discovered enzyme that can bind carbon and silicon together - derived from a bacterium found in the Blue Lagoon! It was a great moment to make that connection between my own travel experiences and my student's scientific interests.

What's your favorite STEM fact?

All humans on the planet today can trace their history back to only a few thousand individuals living about 60-70,000 years ago!

Are scientists creative? 

People don't always think of scientists as being creative. This is a misconception my students often have. I remind them that scientists need to think outside of the box to solve complex problems all the time - just like teachers. Art and science really should go hand in hand.

Thank you for spreading scientific literacy! If you’d like to nominate a STEM friend (or yourself), fill out the AweSTEM people form. You’ll also receive jewelry from Circuit Breaker Labs.