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‘Spider Lady’ Named Oregon Professor of the Year

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Students and spiders: together this unlikely duo fuels Greta Binford’s passion for teaching. Her gifts as an educator have not gone unnoticed. She was recently named the 2011 Oregon Professor of the Year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Since joining Lewis & Clark’s faculty in 2003, Binford, associate professor of biology, has immersed her students in scientific inquiry and encouraged them to learn about themselves while studying other species.

“My research program uses integrative, evolutionary approaches to better understand patterns of diversity in spider venoms,” Binford explains. “In my lab, students participate in evolutionary analysis of spider venoms at all levels of the process. This includes collecting a range of spiders in the field, doing protein analysis of the venoms, and using molecular approaches to study the genes that code for the venom proteins.”

Andrew Wood CAS ’11, Binford’s research assistant, has helped her collect spiders in Texas and plans to study biology in graduate school. “As a teacher, she is extremely hands on,” says Wood. “Her goal is to get you to learn to teach yourself with her mentor-ship. She is phenomenal at that.”

Binford collaborates with undergraduates in her laboratory and in the field. In the past five years, she has received $875,000 in grants to study spider behavior, evolutionary biology, and molecular biology and biochemistry.

“My career as a scientist began when my undergraduate genetics professor offered me a summer job studying spiders in Peru,” Binford said. “Twenty-plus years later, my central goal as an educator is to inspire another generation of undergraduates by introducing them to the vast amounts of biology we don’t know, immersing them in the scientific process, empowering them with skills for doing research, and introducing them to their own potential as scientists.”

To read more about Greta Binford, click here.

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