Briana Burton, Associate Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, has received Harvard’s 2014 Fannie Cox Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching. This annual prize is awarded to two faculty members in recognition of effective teaching (especially teaching introductory level courses) and the ability to both communicate complex ideas and excite and inspire students to pursue a career in science. The second recipient is Krian Musunuru, an Assistant Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology.
“Receiving this award is quite humbling, as I think in our teaching, we ourselves must be perpetual students; I am constantly learning from my students and exploring new ways to engage them in the material and help them become stewards of their own intellectual development,” said Burton. “Helping students reach that next level where they can not only appreciate amazing scientific research breakthroughs, but they have the intellectual tools to evaluate the work themselves and make informed decisions is especially rewarding.”
Since 2009, Burton has taught MCB52, “Molecular Biology,” a key course for many life science concentrators, with an average enrollment of 150. She began as a co-instructor (with Richard Losick and Tom Torello), then as course head. In addition, she has been helping to develop the new MCB undergraduate curriculum, including the new “gateway” course MCB60, “Cellular Biology and Molecular Medicine.” Burton’s own research focuses on how DNA is transported across membranes.
In announcing Burton’s selection for the reward, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology Hopi Hoekstra wrote: “Over the last 5 years, Briana has completely revamped the [MCB52] course—both lecture and laboratory—introducing primary literature, experimental data interpretation, and thereby emphasizing the excitement of scientific discovery. While the course challenges undergraduate students, she still receives high praise for her clarity, organization, dedication and passion, and students cite her as a role model.”
MCB professors Susan Mango and Richard Losick praised the selection of Burton for the prize. “Briana’s dedication to, and enthusiasm, for teaching has invigorated MCB52 and MCB60 (our new gateway course for the MCB concentration),” said Mango, who nominated her for the prize. “Briana introduces students to the scientific world – that is, the logic and experiments that lead to the hypotheses about how cells work.”
Losick, who co-taught with Burton before she took over the course, said: “Briana is a super teacher. What sets her apart is that her top priority above all other considerations is the effectiveness of her lectures. She is creative and willing to experiment in devising pedagogical strategies for engaging her students in learning important concepts in molecular biology and understanding the experimental basis for important tenets in the field. MCB and FAS and our students are lucky to have such an exceptional and dedicated teacher as part of our undergraduate teaching program.”
Read more in the Harvard Gazette