As a microbiology professor, Dr. Roger Gold trains his students to become researchers. He is involved in various initiatives at Southern Utah University, all to enhance student learning and strengthen his biology curriculum.
Gold received his bachelor’s and master’s degree in Food Science and Technology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He received a Ph.D. in Toxicology from Texas A&M University. He started teaching at Southern Utah University in the fall of 2016, after working for 12 years at BYU-Hawaii. He currently teaches the general microbiology lecture and lab courses at SUU.
Inspired by education researchers, including Ken Bain, Susan Ambrose, and James R. Davis, Gold has continually striven to improve his efforts to help students have transformative experiences in the classroom.
“I love seeing the excitement that accompanied the ‘ah-ha’ moment when a confused student suddenly understood a difficult concept or the joy that they felt when a difficult procedure actually worked,” said Gold. “When I first started teaching, I reveled in the thrill of the challenge. The rush that accompanied the completion of a successful discussion outweighed the crushing discouragement of the occasional failure.”
Gold has always taught his lab courses as comprehensive research experiences, engaging students in locally relevant research. When he sees talented and intelligent minds in his classroom who can make logical deductions, he does all he can to guide, prepare and persuade them to become researchers. He is inspired by SUU’s Biology Department mission statement, which reads:
“The mission of the Biology Department is to provide our students with personalized, participative educational experiences over a broad range of biological disciplines that promote critical thinking, effective communication and lifelong learning skills. We provide learning opportunities where students can gain the knowledge, develop integrity and acquire the empathy needed to become independent researchers in the advancement of science.”
Speaking about the statement, Gold said, “I want my students to catch the vision of what they could accomplish as independent researchers. I continually strive to find better ways to inspire them to go beyond the simple desire to earn points and to catch the vision of what they could actually do by actively applying their knowledge and developing their critical thinking skills.”
To capture this vision, Gold has secured a partnership with the University of Houston College of Technology to implement the key components of their biotech program across the country. As part of a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) SUU’s Biology Program will receive $113,000 over the next five years, funding new laboratory equipment to train students in important lab skills and improving analysis accuracy.
“The instructional program funded by this grant will help improve the process of becoming scientists because it allows students to engage in the discovery process from start to finish,” said Gold. “By engaging in the actual process of discovery, students will learn the skills that they need to become successful scientific researchers.”
Gold is also involved with the Curriculum Innovation Grant, which operates through the SUU Library’s Open Educational Resource program. Due to the high cost of his course textbook, Gold developed a new strategy for educating his students. Using the free WIX website hosting platform, student groups essentially create an online open source textbook for the microbiology course.
“The students are really getting into the assignment, and I am much more impressed with their level of preparation when they arrive in class; our discussions go much deeper than I have observed in my regular lectures,” said Gold. “This semester I am teaching one section of BIOL 3010 using the website design and a second section using my traditional lecturing format. I will cover the same material and give the same exams and am anxious to compare student performance in each.
His main goal as a professor is to teach his students how to think. “Seeing a student break out from the norm of simple memorization and actually use their knowledge to think beyond the obvious is a thrill that keeps me going as a teacher,” said Gold.
Gold currently has six independent research students engaged on three different projects investigating microbial communities associated with a variety of desert plants. He has dreams of recruiting dozens more to study biofilm formation in local streams and other projects. He hopes that by including students in his passions for microbiology, they will learn the joys and benefits of applied and basic research.