Julie Gibbs will never find biology dull.
"I don’t see how it’s possible to look at the natural world and not be amazed and curious about how it all works," she said. "The major theme of biology -- evolution -- describes what I love about this field."
It's an enthusiasm that she shares in her biology classrooms at College of DuPage, where Gibbs began teaching after finishing graduate school. Despite experiencing every type of higher education institution across three different states- the small liberal arts college as an undergrad, and both the elite research institute and major state university for grad school -- she returned to her hometown of Glen Ellyn to begin her career.
And she feels at home in the classroom, interacting with a wide range of people every day while discussing topics that include biology's role in the modern world.
"I teach majors, non-majors and microbiology. For all of those classes, I want students to walk away as more scientifically literate people," she said. "All of us need some background in biology to be able to take care of ourselves and other living things in our care, whether pets, plants or other people.
"We all need to be informed citizens when it comes to voting on biological issues such as genetic engineering. We need to make informed consumer decisions when it comes to protecting our environment. So helping students develop scientific literacy is hugely important to me, but I also hope to stir up the same sense of excitement and curiosity about the field that I feel. Microbiology, in particular, is in a new 'golden age' where research is leading us to solutions to big problems in the world, not only in the field of medicine but also in developing fuels, cleaning up toxic wastes and increasing food production."
Gibbs enjoys the fact that education, like biology, is constantly evolving. This allows her to try new strategies in the classroom.
"College of DuPage has made it possible for me to try teaching in alternative delivery formats, like flexible learning and online classes, and to keep up with new technologies to use as teaching tools," she said. "I love teaching at COD because we have options that make it possible for all of our students to reach their goals. Helping community college students, and therefore my community as a whole, is a huge privilege.
"When I see students overcome huge hurdles with respect to finances, health, disabilities, family issues and sometimes simply finding a means to get to class, I am inspired to offer them a valuable experience in return."