Most of us think of fruit flies as annoying, pesky creatures that invade kitchens, sit on rotten fruit, and multiply faster than we can blink. But for Trinity Western University's Assistant Professor of Biology and Department Chair Dr. Dennis Venema, these little bugs are anything but annoying.
In fact, coupled with his love of genetics, Dr. Venema is fascinated with the little creatures. "[Fruit flies] have a long history as a research and teaching organism," says Venema. "The first genetic map ever constructed was in fruit flies in the early 1900s, and today they continue to be an organism used for cutting-edge developmental biology and genetics research."
Dr. Venema, who teaches cell biology and genetics courses at TWU, hit upon an idea to make teaching with flies much easier. His innovation allows instructors to greatly reduce the time and effort required to set up breeding experiments. In 2006, his research appeared in print and has since been widely adopted in Canada, the US, and Europe.
This year, the National Association of Biology Teachers, a US-based international association of high school and university biology instructors, recognized Venema‘s work with an award for excellence in university biology instruction.
True to the award's recognition of his first-class status as an instructor, Venema is quick to mention how his research benefits students, giving them a much needed "hands-on" approach to the sciences. "Research clearly shows that hands-on laboratory experience has huge benefits for students in the sciences," Venema says.
Although Venema is honored to be recognized by his peers, he feels that the award is really more of "a reflection of the excellence of teaching at TWU as a whole," citing TWU's"culture of teaching excellence" as an important stimulus for his work. "In a time when many universities cut costs by reducing or eliminating laboratory experience, TWU retains a strong commitment to providing excellent laboratory instruction in the sciences at all year levels," he says.
Trinity Western University, in Langley, B.C., is an independent Christian liberal arts and sciences university enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers 41undergraduate majors, ranging from biotechnology, education, nursing, theatre and music, to psychology, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 17 graduate degree programs include counseling psychology, business, theology, linguistics, and leadership, and interdisciplinary degrees in English, philosophy and history. TWU holds Canada Research Chairs in Dead Sea Scroll Studies, Developmental Genetics and Disease, and Interpretation, Religion & Culture.
Last Updated: 2008-11-03