Loyola University Chicago

College of Arts & Sciences

Spotlight On: Michael Grillo

Dr. Michael Grillo, Assistant Professor of Biology, Receives Grant from National Science Foundation

Dr. Michael Grillo, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University Chicago, was awarded a $564,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to establish a summer program that introduces research to prospective science teachers who are pursuing a STEM undergraduate degree. The five-year program, which launched in the summer of 2022, aims to serve the national need of preparing high-quality secondary science and mathematics teachers.

“This prestigious National Science Foundation grant and the innovative efforts of Dr. Grillo directly address challenges within the scientific community, educational system and our local area.” said Peter J. Schraeder, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Loyola University Chicago. “Dr. Grillo clearly demonstrates how grant-based faculty research has a practical impact beyond our campus, in this case helping to train the secondary school teachers of tomorrow.”

Overview:

  • Modern teaching standards and best practices call for teachers not simply to reiterate facts, but rather to engage students in scientific processes
  • This experience aims to mentor 40 pre-service teachers over a five-year period
  • Experience is offered to undergraduate STEM students that intend to pursue a career in education
  • Students are placed within the research labs of 12 Loyola faculty members during the summer
  • Students are fully funded to participate in research and weekly professional development opportunities
  • Professional development opportunities include: faculty-led teaching workshops, industry conferences and field trips to Chicagoland museums

As an undergraduate, Grillo had dreams of being a high school biology teacher. His fascination with nature and desire to teach led him to take a course that involved undergraduate research. After participating in research projects and labs, he was hooked. Combining both his passions of research and teaching led him to pursue a faculty position at the university level.

“I have always been very passionate about working with teachers,” said Grillo. “It’s been a priority of mine, especially since becoming a faculty member at Loyola, to try and better serve current and future science teachers by engaging with them. That motivation served as a launching point for pursuing this grant.”

According to Grillo, as the science education continues to progress forward into the next generation of scientific standards, the expectation of teachers is not just to teach content and promote memorization of facts, but to teach and demonstrate the process of practicing science.

“Our goal and hypothesis for the grant is that teachers will be better equipped to teach the practice of doing science if they have had the opportunity to conduct authentic research themselves,” said Grillo.

Project goals:

  • Increase the number and diversity of pre-service teachers in the Chicago area who are STEM majors with a genuine STEM research experience
  • Enhance the summer research experiences with professional development opportunities such as enhancing STEM identities, increasing pedagogical and content knowledge, gaining experience with communication of science concepts and skills, and discussing teaching practices with a focus on implementing research in the K-12 environment
  • Add to the knowledge base for pre-service teacher preparation by collecting and analyzing data about the short and long-term implications of pre-service teacher research and other professional development experiences on pedagogical and content knowledge, science and science teacher identities, and instructional practices.
  • Disseminate outcomes and findings on the LUC model, especially to other programs interested in using authentic STEM research experiences, coupled with teacher professional development, to enhance and improve pre-service science teacher preparation

The project includes collaboration with members from Loyola’s School of Education to track pre-service teachers that participate in the summer research program as they matriculate in their careers to see if introducing them to research has an impact on their career trajectories and their ability to effectively teach in the classroom, particularly in urban area classrooms.

Grillo noted that there is a growing teacher shortage, specifically as it relates to STEM. However, he also pointed out that there is support at various levels, including at The National Science Foundation, to better serve students that want to pursue a career in teaching science. Learn more about the LUC-Noyce Scholars program.

A key reason why Grillo believes Loyola was appealing during the grant selection process is not only due to the University’s well-respected and established research programs, but more so because the research being conducted on LUC’s campus engages and involves undergraduates. Loyola’s strong record of undergraduate research makes for an ideal setting for this type of training experience. 

“A big theme of the grant proposal was biodiversity in an urban setting,” said Grillo. “A lot of our researchers at Loyola are studying biodiversity projects in the city of Chicago.”

The hope for this project is that future teachers who receive more exposure to biodiversity can better engage with their K-12 students from urban areas, who statistically have limited authentic interactions with nature. Teachers will be able to demonstrate to their students that, even in a city setting, there are a lot of natural phenomenon and ways to connect to biology and nature.

Learn more about Dr. Grillo’s NSF grant for Pre-service Teacher Research Experience in Biodiversity Studies.

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About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is the oldest of Loyola University Chicago’s schools, colleges, and institutes. More than 150 years since its founding, the College is home to 19 academic departments, 32 interdisciplinary programs and centers, more than 450 full-time faculty, and nearly 8,000 students. The 2,000+ classes that we offer each semester span an array of intellectual pursuits, ranging from the natural sciences and computational sciences to the humanities, the social sciences, and the fine and performing arts. Our students and faculty are engaged internationally at our campuses in Rome, Italy, and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, as well as at dozens of University-sponsored study abroad and research sites around the world. Home to the departments that anchor the University’s Core Curriculum, the College of Arts and Sciences seeks to prepare all of Loyola’s students to think critically, to engage the world of the 21st century at ever deepening levels, and to become caring and compassionate individuals. Our faculty, staff, and students view service to others not just as one option among many, but as a constitutive dimension of their very being. In the truest sense of the Jesuit ideal, our graduates strive to be “men and women for others.” For further information about the College of Arts and Sciences, please visit our website at www.luc.edu/cas/