Thomas Beatman

Thomas Beatman

Title: IB PhD Student
Dept/Program: Biology


Biography

I’ve spent my entire life interested in animal biodiversity of all sorts, and this eventually led me to doing work at the University of New Hampshire in the lab of Professor Emeritus Ed Tillinghast studying spider silk gland physiology and web construction. In the process I changed majors from Zoology to Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, where I strengthened my background in biochemistry to supplement my spider research. I followed this by jumping tracks and studying biotechnology in the Molecular Life Science MSc. program at Jacobs University Bremen, where I developed and used screenings for weak acid tolerance in Yeasts used in biofuel production.

From there I made the long trip to Ohio,where at first I started studying spiders again, this time focusing on evolution questions, before changing track again to my current work.

Major gaps exist in public understanding of important global topics such as evolution, conservation, and global climate change due to the number and time scale they operate at falling outside the normal range of human conceptualization. Through the testing of informal education interventions, ranging from museum exhibits to board games, methods can be developed for improving audiences’ conceptualization of topics with non human scale cognitive barriers in comparison to formal education methods.

My research is focused on developing and testing informal education interventions to overcome major cognitive barriers to understand large scale concepts. This includes subjects such as evolution, sustainable development, and even global climate change; all of these concepts involve large time or numerical scales, requiring an appreciation for “deep time” that humans have difficulties conceptualizing. By examining how different educational methods, ranging from informal (games of all kinds, exhibits, etc.) to formal (lab modules and curriculum based materials) can effectively engage varying audiences, means can be determined to aid in conceptualization of human-relevant non-human-scale topics.


Education

B.S., Biology, University of New Hampshire; M.S., Molecular Life Science, Jacobs University, Germany