K-12 Visiting Scientists Program

Learning is an active process and there are two areas that we know make learning more real, more interesting and more grounded. Young minds learn by experience and young folks like to meet and interact with practicing professionals. The Visiting Scientist Program, developed and offered by the College of Science and Mathematics (CSAM) at Montclair State University, provides short-term visits to area schools to generate an atmosphere of inquiry, enthusiasm and challenge to students from elementary to high school levels. CSAM faculty members, with diverse expertise, are available to spend select classroom periods at area K-12 schools to share their research and expertise and most importantly the excitement of being a professional scientist, mathematician, information technologist, or STEM educator. Teachers, principals and superintendents are invited to review the list of outstanding presentations and hands-on activities and demonstrations offered by our CSAM faculty and arrange visits to your school and classrooms.

This program is offered as part of community partnership from the College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair State University. There are no fees for the program.

Contact Us

For more information or to arrange for a CSAM faculty member to present a seminar at your institution, please email Shari Ferguson-Murtha at .

Spring 2014 Participant Topics

Kassandra Archer
Title of Presentation:
  • Passaic River Institute. (Presentation can be adjusted for all ages)
Bio: I received my undergraduate degree at MSU in Geography. Afterwards, I served two terms as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Maryland and NJ. I am currently a graduate student working towards my Masters in Environmental Education. I also work for the Passaic River Institute doing outreach and education.
Dr. Robert Taylor
Title of Presentation:
  • Sustainability Science. (High School Juniors, Seniors)
I would discuss what sustainability science is all about and why we need scientists to study this important emerging field.
Bio: Robert W. Taylor, PHD, Director, BS/MS Program in Sustainability Science Department of Earth & Environmental Studies. Specific field of concentration is “Urban or Place-Based Sustainability Science."
Kelly Triece
Title of Presentation:
  • Urban Ecology: Connecting Youth with Backyard Wildlife and their Habitats. (Grade Levels: 4-12)
Bio: Kelly Triece is a graduate student at Montclair State University. She teaches Environmental Education at the NJ School of Conservation and conducts research with NJ wildlife that are threatened by habitat fragmentation and road morality.
Dr. Dirk Vanderklein
Title of Presentation:
  • Invasive plants: Japanese knotweed sucks more than you think. (High School)
Bio: Dr. Vanderklein is an associate professor of Biology at Montclair State University, NJ. His background is in plant physiological ecology, which is the study of how plants and the environment interact with each other. His research has included the impact of insect defoliation on plant carbon storage, why trees grow tall or short, and the physiology of invasive plants. He is also very interested in bringing more hands-on science into the classroom.
Dr. Katherine Herbert
Title of Presentations:
  • What is Computer Science and Information Technology?
  • Computers, Information Technology and the Sciences: How working together lets us address scientific questions,
  • An Introduction to Databases and Their Role in Society,
  • An Introduction to Bioinformatics,
  • An Introduction to Cheminformatics,
  • Computing and Sustainability Sciences Studies,
  • Computing in My Future: Opportunities and Roles of Computing in Careers. (Grade School, Kindergarten and Pre-K)
  • What is a Computer? An introduction to what makes something a computer. (Grade School, Middle School and High Schools)
I would be happy to work with faculty and programs from Pre-K to 12th grade on presenting computing topics they feel are appropriate for their students. I am happy to create technical talks as well as discuss more experience oriented topics that will help students with career choices.
Bio: Dr. Katherine Herbert is an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Montclair State University. Dr. Herbert currently researches database management, data warehousing and data quality issues in biological and biochemical data sets. Currently, she is examining the data integration problems with regards to integrating protein-ligand data with respect to the phylogenetics relationships within the protein data. This work is has been funded by the Montclair State University Sokol Institute for Pharmaceutical Life sciences where she is developing a prototype system. Dr. Herbert is also a recently looking at problems regarding sustainability data and mobile applications. This work has been funded by the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Sciences. Dr. Herbert received her Ph.D. in Computer Science in 2004 for studying data quality issues in biological databases. Dr. Herbert is also funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the S-STEM NECST Program: Networking and Engaging in Computer Science and Information Technology. In this program, she and her team are looking at the impacts of students whose backgrounds are not in computer science completing a computer science master’s degree. Since completing her Ph.D., she has continued to publish Dr. Herbert’s primary research is in biological databases with a specialty in phylogenetic databases. Through her work with the Science Informatics Program, Dr. Herbert has also published a number of Computer Science and Interdisciplinary education papers in venues such as DIMACS, CUR and ACM Special Interest Group in Computer Science Education (SIGCSE).
Dr. Mark Hubey
Title of Presentation:
  • Computer science and Information Technology, Engineering. (High School)
Bio: H.M. Hubey, Professor, Department of Computer Science, University of New Hampshire, PhD, Theoretical and Applied Mechanics, NJIT, MS, Systems Engineering, Stevens Institute of Unification Theological Seminary, MA (almost), Religious Education. Mathematical Linguistics; Mathematical Modeling of Biological, Social, Economic Phenomena, Glaciology, Fuzzy Logic, Nonlinear Differential Equations, Orthogonal Functions, Color Algebra, Nonlinear Mechanics, Simple Genetics Information Quality, Knowledge Quality, Epistemology, Philosophy of Science, Education: Pedagogy-Learning, Similarity Measures, Concepts, Hierarchical Systems, [Mathematical], Ethics, Simulation, Consciousness, Hierarchical Systems, Evolutionary Psychology and Ethics, Animal Cognition.
Dr. Aihua Li
Title of Presentations:
  • Amazing numbers (Amazing number patterns in nature and in sciences). (Grades 3-8)
  • Crypto kids - Future code makers and code breakers (lecture on cryptography basics with hands-on activities). (Grades 3-8)
  • Women in Cryptologic History (contributions of women cryptologists in WWI and WWII). (Grades 6-12)
  • Fractal Geometry (beautiful fractal geometry as art work and the mathematics behind). (Grade 3-12)
  • Calculating with Chinese Abacus (How ancient people do calculation using Chinese abacus, basic rules, and applications in math education).
Bio:Dr. Aihua Li is a professor of Mathematics at Montclair State University. She earned her Ph. D. in mathematics from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In recent years, she has done research in number theory, difference equations, matrix theory, discrete dynamical systems, graph theory, and mathematics applications in biology and materials science. She has been actively involved in directing undergraduate research in mathematics. Dr. Li is currently the vice chair for student activities of the Mathematical Association of America New Jersey Section.
Dr. Mika Munakata
Dr. Ashwin Vaidya
Title of Presentation:
  • Creativity in Science and Mathematics? (Grades 7-12)
Bio: Mika Munakata is a professor of mathematics education in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Montclair State University in New Jersey. She teaches mathematics primarily to pre-service and in-service secondary teachers. Her research interests are in problem solving, program assessment, and teacher development.
Bio: Ashwin Vaidya is an assistant professor of physics in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at Montclair State University. His research lies in the area of theoretical and experimental fluid mechanics and he is also interested in issues of education and creativity in the sciences.
Dr. Stephen Robila
Title of Presentation:
  • Seeing the Unseen – Spectral Imaging and their Applications. (High School, although upper middle school would also be appropriate)
Bio: Dr. Stefan Robila is a professor in the Department of Computer Science at Montclair State University. He has a PhD in Computer Information Science and a Masters in Computer Science from Syracuse University. Since joining Montclair State in 2003, Dr. Robila has taught courses covering a large part of the computing field and engaged in projects with students at all levels (doctoral, masters, undergraduate and high school). His research projects include image processing, high performance computing, computer security, and green computing. Dr. Robila’s work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, PSEG, HP, Sun Microsystems, and SPIE and has resulted in over 60 scientific publications.
Dr. Patrick Truitt
Title of Presentations:
  • How magnets work: a hands-on exploration of the magnetic force. (Grades 4-8)
  • Spintronics: how a new kind of electronics with a “twist” will change computers. (Grades 11-12)
Bio: Dr. Truitt is an assistant professor of physics at Montclair State University. He received his B.S. in physics, math, and computer science at Gordon College in Wenham, MA . He then completed a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Maryland, College Park, graduating in 2007. Before coming to Montclair he was a postdoctoral researcher at The Ohio State University. Dr. Truitt specializes is an experimentalist specializing in solid state physics and nanotechnology. His primary research areas are nanoelectromechanical systems (NEMS), molecular magnetism, and spintronics.
Dr. Nina Goodey
Title of presentation:
  • Chemistry Magic. (Grades 3–5)
Bio: Dr. Nina Goodey holds a Ph.D. in chemistry with a concentration in biochemistry from University of Texas at Austin and is an expert in enzyme structure, function, and kinetics. There she engineered the substrate specificity of Phospholipase C by active site mutagenesis. She did her postdoctoral work at Pennsylvania State University, in College Park, PA in the laboratory of Stephen Benkovic investigating the role of protein motion in the catalysis of Dihydrofolate reductase. Her scholarship focuses on the role of conformational changes in drug binding and catalysis, with special focus on allosteric interactions and inhibitors. She has also recently become interested in the role of heavy metal contamination on soil enzyme function. She has published her work in 15 peer-reviewed articles in journals including Biochemistry and Nature Chemical Biology. She is originally from Finland and moved to the U.S. when she was 14 years old. She has three bilingual children, ages 3, 5, and 7. In her free time, she enjoys playing with her children, hiking, camping, running, cooking, and reading for pleasure.
Dr. Reginald Halaby
Title of Presentation:
  • Herbal Anticancer Agent for Treatment-Resistant Breast Cancers. (High School)
Bio: Dr. Halaby is a Cell and Developmental Biologist and Professor of Biology and Molecular Biology. The focus of Dr. Halaby's research lab is the induction of apoptosis (programmed cell death) in human breast and prostate cancer cells. Dr. Halaby is specifically interested in apoptosis that is triggered by lysosomes, organelles that function in cellular digestion. His lab is currently investigating how triptolide, a Chinese herb, affects the activation of caspases and the subcellular localization of cathepsin B. Breast cancer and prostate cancer are the second deadliest cancers in the United States in women and men, respectfully. Therefore, these two types of cancers represent an enormous health burden in our country.
Dr. Julian Keenan
Title of Presentation:
  • The Brain: Pretty good, Mostly Bad! (Grades K-2 or 3-6)
Bio: Dr. Julian Paul Keenan is a Professor of Biology and Microbiology at Montclair State University. Recently named one of New Jersey's 20 Biggest Brains, Dr. Keenan's real qualification comes from having a 7 year old daughter, Harper. She has lead Dr. Keenan down the path of discovering that both adults and children have brains that make mistakes more often than one would think. Trained in Biopsychology at the University of Albany and Neurology at Harvard Medical School (Dr. Keenan is a PhD, not an MD), Dr. Keenan brings the enthusiasm of a 7-year old and the wisdom of 'an old guy'. His talk can include actual brains, movies, volunteers, and group participation.
Dr. Carlos Molina
Title of Presentation:
  • How can zebrafish help us be healthy? (Grades: 6-12)
Bio: Dr. Carlos A. Molina is an associate Professor of Molecular Biology at the College of Sciences and Mathematics of Montclair State University. From 1994 to 2006 he was an assistant professor at the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women’s Health at Rutgers Medical School in Newark, NJ. Dr. Molina received his B.S. in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico, M.S. and Ph.D. in Biochemistry for Purdue University and postdoctoral training in molecular and cell biology at the University of Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg, France. Using zebrafish as a model organism, Dr. Molina has focused his research in two areas, cancer and the female reproductive system. In the area of cancer research he seeks to understand the mechanisms involved in eliminating and misplacing a protein with tumor suppression activity in skin cancer cells. This data set the stage to test for pharmacological agents specifically targeted to inhibit the degradation and abnormal localization of this protein. In the area of reproductive biology he is developing ovarian-specific transgenic zebrafish to dissect the molecular mechanisms of ovulation. These studies may lead to the development of new technologies in the field of agricultural livestock, where higher ovulation rates are desired. Further research in this area could also lead to the development of novel reproductive technologies.
Dr. Robert Prezant
Title of Presentations:
  • Ocean Animals (Grades 3-5)
  • Marine Animals: Form and Function (Grades 6-12)
  • Molluscs are More than Shells - From Deadly Cones to Octopus, the Smartest Invertebrate (Grades 8-12)
Bio: Robert S. Prezant is Dean of the College of Science and Mathematics at Montclair State and a Professor in the Departments of Biology and Molecular Biology and Earth and Environmental Studies. His research, with funding from NSF, NOAA, E.J. Noble Foundation, and other public and private agencies, resides in marine and aquatic ecology and organismal functional morphology, with publications in Science, Marine Biology, Journal of Zoology and many others. He was President of the American Malacological Society and serves on the NJ Marine Science Consortium Board of Directors, NJ Sea Grant Advisory Committee, Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission, NJ R&D Council, and the Board of Trustees of the Hackensack University Medical Center Mountainside, . He is University Professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and there was presented the Outstanding Research Award. Dr. Prezant was Editor-in-Chief of the American Malacological Bulletin for ten years and Editor of Perspectives in Malacology, and The Second International Corbicula Symposium. Dr. Prezant holds a Ph.D. in Marine Biology from the College of Marine Studies, University of Delaware, an MS in Marine Science from Northeastern University, and a B.A. in Biology from Adelphi University.

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