Biology professor honored with Zepp Distinguished Teacher award

Katie Lynn Staab, assistant professor of Biology, and provost Julia Jasken.
May 19, 2018

Katie Lynn Staab, assistant professor of Biology and a Charles A. Boehlke, Jr., Engaged Faculty Fellow, consistently instills in her students a zest for learning that seamlessly crosses and integrates diverse disciplines. Her innovative teaching and mentoring truly reflect the liberal arts at their finest and exemplify the McDaniel values recognized by the The Ira G. Zepp Distinguished Teaching Award. She earns high marks from colleagues and students alike who often note how thrilled she is when they properly dissect a specimen or clearly grasp one of science’s fundamental principles.

An accomplished scholar and researcher who routinely includes students in her work, Staab has focused her studies on the physiology, development and evolution of connective tissues and patterns of evolutionary diversification within musculoskeletal traits. She regularly teaches Animal Physiology, Comparative Anatomy Vertebrate, Topics in Biology and Principles of Biology, but her research and courses fall short of telling this extraordinary professor’s story.

Staab shares her research and her lab with McDaniel pre-med, biology, kinesiology and biochemistry students and often takes them with her to present at professional conferences. Her labs and lectures are spiced with intricate details that have sparked countless aha moments among her students who are equally at home streamside, in parkas and waterproof Wellies, as they are in the lab.

Perhaps what sets Staab apart is the fact that her students and their projects show up at seemingly unlikely places. A McDaniel art exhibition, “Skepsis,” featured the work of her Comparative Biology students, including the 3D printed skull of an Asian tapir and the re-articulated color-coded skeleton of a rabbit. More than one student has sailed the seas on a research vessel or explored a quarry wetland because Staab encouraged, coaxed or prodded them to seize every opportunity.

Staab designed and mentored the first-year seminar, “Tinkering with Discovery,” not only to exercise students’ critical and creative thinking skills but also to teach them how to pick themselves up and try again when faced with a failure. Eager to show young schoolchildren that science is more cool then frightening, she helped Beta Beta Beta Biology honor society members set up a Halloween trick-or-treat table in front of Campus Safety on Pennsylvania Avenue in Westminster that featured  scary skeletons, skulls, flesh-eating beetles along with some yummy Swedish fish.

Widely published with a long list of presentations to her credit, Staab earned her B.S. in Biology at Mount Saint Mary’s University and her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences with post-doctoral work at The George Washington University. She serves on several College committees, including as the co-founder of the Writing, Research and Creativity faculty support group and as chair of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee.

The Ira G. Zepp Distinguished Teaching Award, established in 1995 through the generosity of Charles E. Moore, Jr. '71 and Carol Hoerichs Moore '70, recognizes inspired classroom work and dedication to students. This award memorializes the beloved faculty member Ira G. Zepp who taught in the Department of Religious Studies until his retirement in 1994.

The criteria of the Zepp Distinguished Teaching Award are demanding:

  • Ability to communicate ideas, knowledge, and enthusiasm for learning to students in and out of the classroom.
  • Competence in the field and demonstrated professional involvement in the discipline.
  • Appreciation of and commitment to the liberal arts as related to the individual’s own discipline.
  • And emphasis on the relationship between theory and practice.

Lead photo: Katie Lynn Staab, assistant professor of Biology, and provost Julia Jasken.