Meet the mentors for this Faculty Mentoring Network!
Cynthia A. Wei is the Associate Director of Education at SESYNC. In this role, she works to advance the teaching and learning of socio-environmental synthesis through several SESYNC programs and initiatives; she leads efforts to advance the use of case study teaching in the environmental field, and to engage underrepresented minorities in socio-environmental science. She also co-leads the SESYNC Postdoctoral Fellowship Program. Prior to coming to SESYNC, This she was an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Division of Undergraduate Education and a Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Through these fellowships, she worked on several national STEM education programs and initiatives related to biology education, climate change education, evolution education, and the role of community colleges in STEM education, work which built on her experiences as a K-12 science teacher and college-level biology instructor. Prior to moving to DC, Dr. Wei researched animal cognition. At the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, where she was a postdoctoral research associate, she combined psychological and biological approaches to research the cognitive abilities of corvids. She also studied learning and navigation in honeybees at Michigan State University, where she earned a dual-degree Ph.D. in zoology and ecology, evolutionary biology, and behavior. She holds a B.A. in biology (neurobiology and behavior) from Cornell University.
Mintesinot Jiru (PhD in Applied Biological Sciences, Gent University) is an Associate Professor and current chair of the Department of Natural Sciences at Coppin State University. He has over 20 years of teaching and research experience in areas of climate change and environmental systems. Dr. Jiru has done extensive work on land degradation, food security, and water management issues in Africa and Asia.
Dr. Jiru’s current research focuses on understanding the socio-environmental and biophysical issues encompassing water quality in Baltimore’s watersheds. Over the last five years, Dr. Jiru has been closely working with SESYNC to create awareness on socio-environmental synthesis approaches at Coppin State University. Mintesinot is a co-lead for a multi-institution study focusing on the Science, Technology, Engineering and Pedagogy (STEP) of climate change. This project aims at developing customized modules on climate change.
Dr. Jiru currently serves as the chief editor for the American Journal of Experimental Agriculture. He also serves as a member of the External Board for SESYNC. Mintesinot served on various panels and task forces including Governor’s task force (MD) that was charged to write a white paper to develop graduate programs in alternative energy in Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology Education
Dr. Aramati Casper is an ecologist whose research interests encompass ecology education and forest ecology. She is currently a biology education post-doctoral fellow at Washington State University, where her research focuses on helping undergraduate students develop scientific argumentation. At a larger scope, her education research interests are informed by systems thinking, and include ecological literacy, conceptual change, problem- and project-based learning. In ecology, she is interested in developing methods to help increase forest resilience within our changing climate, and her work includes citizen science collaborations. She is the vice-chair of the Inclusive Ecology section of the Ecological Society of America, and she has a strong commitment to developing practical ways to create equity in and out of the classroom.
Bard Center for Environmental Policy
Dr. Gautam Sethi's current research involves two projects that are based on the socio-ecological synthesis (SES) framework. One of these is a collaborative exercise with Mary Blair, an ecologist at the Center for Biodiversity Conservation, New York, and anthropologists at Vietnam National University, Hanoi, is an attempt to identify the drivers of slow loris hunting in Vietnam. In addition, He is working with Amy Krakowka Richmond from the United States Military Academy at West Point to develop a household level index of vulnerability in order to identify various stressors that adversely impact household well being in East Africa, with an initial focus on Uganda, specifically focusing on water scarcity as a major stressor in order to develop cogent policy solutions to mitigate, and perhaps reverse, current trends.
As an economist and a statistician, Dr. Sethi places very strong emphasis on conveying the core conceptual ideas of both these disciplines in simple terms. While there are a number of excellent papers and textbooks that explain economic concepts well, the lack of a statistics textbook that delves deeper into statistical ideas has spurred him to write one of my own. The textbook he is developing differentiates itself from existing books in that it develops a common frame for testing all hypotheses, explains the relationship between various distributions which allows students to logically deduce the appropriate statistical test for their research design, explains what estimators are and how to choose among them, and develops the connection between the Pythagorean theorem, the law of cosines, and methods such as ANOVA and regression, thereby showing deep connections among geometry, trigonometry, and statistics.