Dr. Amy T. Hark
I teach courses in the areas of molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics for both science majors and non-majors. I came to Muhlenberg because I am committed to engaging students in science in the context of a liberal arts education. Challenging students to make connections between science and other areas of discourse in academia and in society has created some of the most interesting and fulfilling teaching and learning moments for me and, I hope, for my students.
I employ a variety of activities designed to develop students’ analytical problem-solving ability, in part because I believe this is a skill that will be useful well beyond the science classroom. I value collaboration and try to create a culture that encourages peer learning. I am committed to inclusive pedagogy, which connects to student-centered instruction but also considers how identity impacts the teaching and learning environment. I welcome opportunities to engage in pedagogical development with students and faculty colleagues on campus and through national conferences and workshops. I served as director of the Faculty Center for Teaching from 2011 to 2014.
Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests
My scientific research interests involve studying the regulation of gene function: How are genes controlled so that they are active only in the appropriate types of cells and developmental stages?
Since my doctoral study, I have been fascinated by the field of epigenetics, which describes effects on gene expression that are not mediated through DNA sequence itself, but rather through modifications to the packaging of the genome in our cells. My lab currently uses the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana to investigate the impact of this packaging in fundamental developmental events, including flower and trichome (leaf hair) formation. Students investigate the genes involved in these processes using the tools of molecular biology, genetics and developmental biology.
We are also engaged in collaborative research as part of the Genomics Education Partnership, a consortium that facilitates undergraduate research in genomics. These comparative genomics projects use in silico analyses (computer-based) to annotate genes in Drosophila species. The underlying biological question is how genome organization impacts gene function, which connects to my basic research interests and work of other members of the Hark Lab.
I am also interested in developing pedagogical and curricular innovations to enhance undergraduate education.