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Dirk Vanderklein

Chairperson, Biology

Science Hall 116
BS, University of Washington
MS, University of Washington
PhD, University of Minnesota
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I am currently the chair of the Department of Biology.

My research is on plants and their relationship to their environment (see Specialization).

For advising help or help with any Biology Department issues please email me at:


My research focuses on how plants grow in the environmental conditions they live in and how plants affect the environment that they live in. Currently, my research is concentrating on these areas: the impact of Japanese knotweed (an invasive plant) on our water supply, what is the status of the street trees in Montclair, NJ, and how to help first-year first-generation students succeed in science and college. The Japanese knotweed research is in collaboration with Dr. Josh Galster of the Department of Earth and Environmental Studies. The street tree work is in collaboration with the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies. The first-year student work is in collaboration with Drs. Galster, Goodey, and Professor Dalley. All of this work has involved and continues to involve undergraduate and graduate students. Our results from the knotweed work suggest that for some of our local streams, Japanese knotweed is removing as much as 9% of our water supply during the summer months. Given that we are already experiencing water shortages in northern New Jersey, this additional loss of water is very worrisome. We are currently trying to understand the impact of this plant at the watershed scale. The rest of the research is too new to have any meaningful results.

I mostly teach BIOL113 (Principles of Biology 2), BIOL213 (Introduction to Ecology), and BIOL425/520 (Plant physiology). In my teaching I try to engage students in their learning. My goal is to have students become fully engaged in their learning so that they go beyond rote learning and instead try to achieve deep learning (i.e. true understanding). I try to achieve this through a combination of in-class exercises, group projects out of class, hands-on learning in lab, and student reflection pieces in class. I believe that making lectures entertaining and showing students how the information is relevant to their lives helps them become and stay engaged. My exams are not multiple-choice. My exams are essay style and I ask students to demonstrate that they can apply what has been covered in class to a novel situation. As part of my dedication to achieving deep learning by the students who attend my classes, I have joined the Office for Faculty Advancement at MSU as a fellow and mentor in the Engaged Teaching Mentors and Fellows Program.


Office Hours


3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm