Research: Dr. Haen Whitmer’s research, in collaboration with Dennis Lavrov (EEOB), uses Metazoan mitochondrial genomes as a model system for evolutionary genomic studies. Due to their relatively small size, sequences for complete mitochondrial DNAs (mtDNAs) are now available for animals over a large phylogenetic spectrum, including recent additions for the three classes of Porifera and various cnidarians. This wealth of data gives researchers a unique opportunity to infer the mechanisms underlying the evolution of genomes. The application of molecular phylogenies both resolves questionable phylogenetic relationships inside highly derived groups, but also suggests a pattern of evolution for various unusual mt-genomic features.
Education: Science professional development programs often rely upon Likert-ranked self-efficacy questions for the evaluation of science skill gains, despite that it may be difficult to infer the causality of perceived skill gains by using the technique. Dr. Haen Whitmer recently developed a new methodology for evaluating science process knowledge gains, which has been implemented in education programs for the NSF ERC for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC). The results from this research, triangulated with findings from other quantitative and qualitative data sources will provide insight into subjects’ perceptions of skill gains versus directly measurable changes. This research additionally illuminates how perceptions about creativity in experimental design may impact subjects’ performance on authentic research tasks.