Science Seminar: How STEM Became STEAM

Science Seminar: How STEM Became STEAM

Science Seminar: How STEM Became STEAM All faculty, staff and students are cordially invited to a Science Seminar on Friday, February 26, 2016 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. in the CE Forum Ernst Center on the Annandale Campus. Dr. Gillian Backus (LO) and Dr. Diane Mucci (MA) will present “How STEM Became STEAM and Everyone Won: Incorporating Humanities in STEM Disciplines.”

There will be a meet and greet with light refreshments from 11:30 a.m. to 11:55 a.m. in the CE Forum.

Many global problems, such as population growth, inadequate health care, resource sustainability and poor water quality require multiple perspectives and the expertise of many disciplines, from science and economics to geography, history and politics.

Tomorrow’s leaders need abstract and critical thinking skills to successfully navigate critical issues, and develop unique approaches to solving these global problems. Unfortunately, cross-disciplinary courses that bridge the STEM and humanities disciplines are rare. This lecture will provide an overview of the long-standing argument for, and benefits of, integrating science and humanities content in the college curriculum, and provide two examples of nontraditional inter- and trans-disciplinary curriculum development that occur here at NOVA.

Backus is a professor of biology at NOVA’s Loudoun Campus where she teaches anatomy and physiology and biology. She graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in biology from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She taught high school biology at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and The Shipley School in Pennsylvania for 10 years before pursuing graduate studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She graduated with a Ph.D. in toxicology in 2006.

From there, Backus became a Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the National Academies of Sciences in Washington, D.C., where she got a firsthand look at the role of science in policy and politics. She then earned a permanent position working for the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency doing chemical risk assessment. She was hired fulltime at NOVA in 2009.

Currently, Backus’ pedagogical interests center on increasing cross-disciplinary course collaboration and improving scientific literacy through civic responsibility (see She has recently redesigned her biology class to center on the theme of “Food and Cancer.”

Mucci is interim dean of Science and Applied Technology on NOVA’s Manassas Campus. Prior to assuming her current position, she led the Biotechnology Program at the Loudoun Campus. Mucci assisted in the development and approval of NOVA’s A.A.S. degree in biotechnology and the biotechnology lab technician certificate program.

She holds a Ph.D. in molecular genetics, biochemistry and microbiology from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at National Institutes of Health (NIH), Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. Outside of academia, Mucci was a scientist/writer/editor for Lockheed Martin as a contractor for NIH. Her work there included playing an instrumental role in the launch of the Genetics Home Reference website, a product of the National Library of Medicine.

This event is presented by the Science Seminar Committee; Math, Science and Engineering Division; and the Lyceum Committee, Annandale Campus.

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