Associate Professor Laura Blinderman Wins Distinguished Teaching Award

6-03-05

MCCC Associate Professor Laura Blinderman making her acceptance speech at commencement ceremonies on May 26. She won the Distinguished Teaching Award for 2005.

Laura Blinderman has always loved science. Since high school she has pursued her scientific interests, earning B.S. and M.S. degrees, and working in scientific research. After moving to New Jersey 13 years ago, Blinderman tried her hand at teaching college classes at Mercer County Community College.

First as a part-time adjunct, and for the past nine years as a full-time associate professor, Blinderman has taught biology, genetics, and anatomy and physiology classes to a diverse student body. Last week, at commencement ceremonies, her decision to change careers was affirmed in a way she never expected. She was selected by her colleagues and students to receive the prestigious “Distinguished Teaching Award” for 2005.

In her acceptance speech Blinderman said: “What I love about teaching science is the opportunity to be immersed in the study of the beauty, the complexity, and the elegance of living systems and to be able to share that fascination with others. I encourage you to keep asking questions, be curious, view the world with wonder, and maintain a healthy skepticism.”

A comment from one of Blinderman’s colleagues sums up the opinion of many on the Mercer campus. “I believe that she personifies a great teacher: tough but fair, dynamic, available, approachable, interested and committed. She is one of the unsung heroes who goes about her duties without a lot of noise and fanfare.”

Students were equally laudatory: “She is a wonderful educator and truly cares for all students. She was one of the kindest professors I had at Mercer.” “She is an outstanding teacher. She explains the subject matter so that everyone can understand it. She knows how to make classes a truly enjoyable learning experience.”

After growing up in Massachusetts, Blinderman lived for five years in San Diego, where she earned her M.S. from San Diego State University in biology and did graduate work in genetics at the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species at the San Diego Zoo. She then conducted scientific research for Bristol Myers Squibb and several biotechnology firms. Although she loved her research work, Blinderman has found another love in teaching, and she can see the results of her work every day.

“This is more gratifying than anything that could have happened to me in research unless perhaps I developed a cure for a disease,” she said. “Opportunities here are greater for having an impact. Sometimes years go by and I get an e-mail from a student, and on a day to day basis I can see the results of my work instantly.”

While Blinderman never expected to teach at a community college, she has come to embrace the idea, and she appreciates the older and more diverse student population. “Now that I’m here I think this is where I would have chosen to teach. My students know what they want and they value what they are doing. I enjoy working with the adult population.”

An influential member of many college committees, Blinderman sees the college environment as continually stimulating and challenging. “The thing about teaching is there are unlimited things you can get involved in. The biggest problem is having to limit what you do. I can’t see ever getting bored and I think that’s true for education in general – it is always interesting.”

Among her many activities Blinderman serves on the steering committee for the NJ chapter of SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities), a project funded by the National Science Foundation.

Blinderman, whose husband, Jim Riggs, chairs the biology department at Rider University, said sharing experiences with him has been a bonus. In many cases Mercer’s graduates transfer to Rider, so he is teaching his wife’s former students. The family moved to West Amwell recently after living many years in downtown Lambertville.

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