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Drennan Teaching Biography

Teaching Experience. Cathy Luschinsky Drennan started her training in education at Vassar College where she took all the education courses they offered, did student teaching at a local public high school, and tutored at a private one. Following graduation, Cathy moved from New York to West Branch, Iowa to teach at Scattergood Friends School, a Quaker boarding school and working hog farm. She lived in the girls' dorm and taught biology, chemistry, physics, and drama. The biology class included a unit on hog reproduction; students had their own pregnant hog that they helped deliver. Drama class activities included productions of The Importance of Being Earnest where Cathy's entire physics class except for one person had major roles, and The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (she was the science teacher after all). After two years of teaching, Cathy was promoted and put in charge of the school's academic program, trying her hand at administrative work. After three years at Scattergood, she returned to her own studies as a graduate student at the University of Michigan.

At Michigan, Cathy was a teaching assistant for a biochemistry class for nurses, and a biochemistry class for medical students. For the latter, she received a University wide graduate student teaching award. After completing her Ph.D. in Biological Chemistry with Prof. Martha Ludwig, Cathy moved to Pasadena for a postdoctoral position at Caltech with Prof. Doug Rees, where she had the opportunity to teach a guest lecture in Caltech's freshman chemistry course sequence.

Soon thereafter, she was able to compare Caltech and MIT students, as in 1999, she took a faculty position at MIT, where she has taught freshman chemistry (5.111 - Principles of Chemical Science). Cathy has also designed and taught a graduate course in her field of protein crystallography (5.78 - Practical Macromolecular Crystallography). Further, she enjoys giving guest lectures and has participated in 5.52 - Advanced Biological Chemistry; 5.50 - Enzymes: Structure and Function; 5.08 - Biological Chemistry II; STS.067 -Scientific Visualization across Disciplines; and 6.971 -Introduction to Molecular Simulations.

Undergraduate Advising. Cathy's advising activities include the development of the MIT Undergraduate Biochemistry Association (MUBA), the academic advising of chemistry majors, and serving as a Residential Scholar at Simmons Hall.

Undergraduate Curriculum Development. Cathy has served on the Education and Professional Development Committee of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology ( ASBMB) when they developed their undergraduate biochemistry curriculum recommendations. She organized a workshop on curriculum design for the 1999 ASBMB-sponsored meeting "Biochemistry Education in the next Millennium," and presently serves on the editorial board for the only journal dedicated to biochemistry education, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education. At MIT, she is also a member of the Chemistry Curriculum Committee.

Promoting Undergraduate Research at the National Level . When Cathy began serving on the Education and Professional Development Committee of the ASBMB, she was shocked to learn that this, the largest society of biochemists in the United States (with over 11,900 members), had no activities for undergraduates at its national meeting. To address this deficit, she started the first undergraduate event in 1997, a poster competition judged by biochemistry textbook authors, among others. This poster competition was a huge success, attracting undergraduates from all over the United States in colleges ranging from small liberal arts schools to major research universities. Undergraduates presented their work both at this poster competition, where ASBMB members could see the quality of undergraduate research occurring on US college campuses, and in the regular poster sessions organized by research area. During one of the latter events, an undergraduate received a postdoc offer from a national academy member. Indeed, for several undergraduates, the opportunity to present their work at this meeting changed their career trajectories. Cathy organized this event for five years (1997-2001), and now continues her participation as a judge in the competition. Due to the success of this event, the ASBMB agreed to help finance travel to their national meetings, and Cathy served on the resulting Undergraduate Travel Grant Committee for three years (1998-2002).

Promoting Undergraduate Research at MIT. Cathy's laboratory has been a research home to over thirty undergraduates over the last nine years, including MIT UROP students, undergraduates in the MIT Summer Research Program (MSRP), and undergraduates from other colleges including Vassar College, Brown, and University of Richmond, to name a few. For the past three years, she has also run a summer program funded by NIH designed to encourage undergraduates with quantitative backgrounds such as physics, math, or chemistry, to do research in the biological sciences. Students participating in this program had a 10-week research experience in faculty laboratories and attended a series of educational workshops and seminars on graduate school admissions, graduate student life, biochemistry research at MIT, and giving oral presentation. Unfortunately, NIH has discontinued this program.

International Education Activities. As a member of the U.S. National Committee for the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (2003-Present), Cathy is involved in projects that include biochemistry textbook distribution to third world countries.

HHMI Professor.
In 2006, Cathy received the distinct honor of being named one of twenty Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professors for her teaching work. In support of her ongoing mentoring and teaching programs, HHMI gave Cathy a $1 million grant to fund future teaching initiatives, including the incorporation of biologically-relevant material into her freshman-chemistry course. In 2008, Cathy was also named an HHMI Investigator, the first HHMI Professor to attain that achievement.


Teaching Awards.
University of Michigan Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award (19911992)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Dean's Educational and Student Advising Award (2004)
Everett Moore Baker Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2005)

Chemistry Classes.
5.111 Principles of Chemical Science
5.52 Advanced Biological Chemistry
5.78 Practical Macromolecular Crystallography