3-Minute Interview: Michael Dunn

The teacher at Capuchino High School in San Bruno is striving to bring classrooms into the 21st century. He was just named one of 10 national finalists for the prestigious 2008 Genzyne Invitrogen Biotech Educator Award.

What did you do to be named a finalist for this award? I wrote some short essays that talked a little bit about what types of things need to be done to increase the number of students taking biotechnology classes, particularly underserved populations.

What role does biotechnology play in today’s schools? There’s a very tiny population of teachers out there who are teaching biotech classes. I created this biotech program at my school pretty much from scratch, I had to go out and do some fundraising and grant writing. It’s a minimum of about $50,000 worth of equipment.

What do the kids think of the subject? You do get a fair number of kids who come in and are very curious and motivated, and some are at school because they have no choice or it’s a place to socialize and be with their friends. That creates further challenges because you’re using thousands of dollars worth of equipment in the classroom with some students who maybe don’t really care about succeeding in the lab.

What are the benefits to society from having people who are educated in the field of biotechnology? Biotech is fun, so it’s a good way to kind of hook the students and get them motivated and engaged to enjoy science. They’re using fancy high-tech equipment that they’ve seen on TV and on shows like “CSI,” and they know that it’s the stuff that the pros use.

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