PEER is a Youth STEM promotion program for rural middle schools and high schools using veterinary medicine and environmental issues to stimulate youths’ interest in learning about their own health (“One Health”).
In keeping with Vision 2020 outlining the goals of Texas A&M University, PEER has directed its overarching goals toward four of 12 main TAMU Vision 2020 Imperatives. PEER helps the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences “Meet Our Commitment to Texas”,” Build Community and Metropolitan Connections”, “Increase Access to Knowledge Resources”, and “Diversify and Globalize the A&M Community”.
PEER has developed a website hosting standard-based science and agriculture sciences lessons (some of which are student-centered and others are integrated with English, social studies, and math). PEER offers videos of scientists’ and veterinarians’ presentations and their interviews, teacher professional development statewide, and near peer mentoring of K-12 students. These videos and those of veterinary students and undergraduate students presentations and interviews promoting STEM as they describe their own academic paths toward veterinary school or medical school also can be seen at PEER at TAMU YouTube. The PEER project has reached 20,250 teachers and 2,046,250 students in all 50 states (see maps below) over its 20-year existence and is currently reaching over 2,000 teachers and over 200,000 K-12 students (52% minority) yearly.
Funding for the PEER Program has been provided by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and National Institute of General Medical Sciences (SEPA) of the National Institutes of Health, the Emma Barnsley Foundation and the John Deere Foundation, and the Provost’s Office of Texas A&M University.
ABOUT THE PEER INTERDISCIPLINARY TEAM
The PEER interdisciplinary team is composed of scientists (including epidemiologist, physiologist, and neuroscientist, and educational psychologist), computer engineers, education specialist professionals, online curriculum-delivery specialists, and seasoned/award-winning middle school teachers.
ABOUT Larry Johnson
Dr. Larry Johnson received his Ph.D. in Reproductive Physiology for Colorado State University in 1978 and postdoctoral training at Dallas Southwestern Medical School. Dr. Johnson joined VIBS at Texas A&M University in 1987 and became a professor in 1992. He published over 110 original articles; gave invited scientific talks on four continents; won a national research award; served on a research panel for the United States Congress; served on NIH, NSF, USDA, and NIOSH grant review panels and on editorial boards of scientific journals; and received a BIMS teaching award and AFS Distinguished Achievement Award for Teaching. His VIBS histology YouTube channel of 13,800 subscribers and 951,027 views (~28% from USA) is used in VIBS 243 and 443 histology courses he developed. He also developed a graduate course on scientific ethics (VMID 686). He is PI of PEER that has reached 20,250 teachers and 2,046,250 students in all 50 states over its 20-year and now reaches 2,000 teachers and over 200,000 K-12 students (52% minority) yearly. He has received over $8,000,000 of NIH and NSF funding over 42 years. He won an AFS Distinguished Achievement Award for Outreach and a TAMU Bush Excellence Award for Faculty in Public Service.
ABOUT Christine Budke
Dr. Christine Budke is a professor of epidemiology and associate department head at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. She obtained her veterinary degree (DVM) from Purdue University and a PhD in epidemiology from the University of Basel. Her research focuses on the epidemiology and burden of Neglected Tropical Diseases and Neglected Zoonotic Diseases. These diseases are common in regions of poverty and are considered neglected in terms of research and intervention focus. Many of these conditions not only affect human health, but also affect livestock health, resulting in a secondary social and monetary impact on poor agricultural and pastoralist communities. Dr. Budke has acted as a resource advisor for the World Health Organization Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group and has contributed to the Global Burden of Disease Study. She is a Deputy Editor of the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases and an Associate Editor of the journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine. Her research has resulted in authorship of more than 100 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Budke teaches epidemiology and public health at the undergraduate, graduate, and professional student levels and is the recipient of the Bridges Teaching and Service Award and the Texas Veterinary Medical Association Teaching Award.
ABOUT William Klemm
Dr. Bill Klemm began his professional life as a veterinarian (a graduate and Distinguished Alumnus of Auburn University). He then served a stint in the U.S. Air Force and rose to the rank of Colonel in the USAF Reserves, which included Research and Development planning for Systems Command. He completed a Ph.D. in biology at the University of Notre Dame. He served three years teaching physiology and pharmacology at Iowa State University before transferring to the Department of Biology, specializing in neuroscience, before transferring to the College of Veterinary Medicine. His neuroscience research has spanned the field from membrane biology to human cognition. He has authored over 250 peer-reviewed publications, 55 book chapters, and 22 books (four of the books are on learning and memory). He has served on the official Editorial Boards of twelve scholarly journals, six of which are education journals. He leads a “Neuro-education” group on LinkedIn. He helped create PEER, has been a co-leader of the PEER program since its inception, and written much of the curricular material. He operates a Memory Medic blog at Psychology Today. His blog posts have over 3.5 million reader views. His web site is http://thankyoubrain.com.
ABOUT Hank Walker
Dr. Duncan M. (Hank) Walker is Professor and Graduate Advisor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. He earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Carnegie Mellon University, and Bachelor’s degree in Engineering from the California Institute of Technology. His research focuses on software engineering, and hardware and software testing. He spent many years developing and teaching the freshman engineering curriculum. He developed the current software engineering curriculum where student teams work with real customers to develop software to solve their problems. He has received the Texas A&M Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company Excellence in Engineering Teaching Award, the E. D. Brockett Professorship Award, the Texas A&M Charles W. Crawford Service Award, and is an Association for Computing Machinery Distinguished Scientist.
ABOUT Julie Harlin
Julie Harlin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Texas A&M University. She earned a Ph.D. in Agricultural Education from Oklahoma State University, and Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Agricultural Education and Agricultural Science from Texas A&M University. She began her career as a secondary agricultural science teacher before joining higher education and teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in teaching and learning in the context of agricultural education. Her research focuses on learner centered instructional design. She has won numerous teaching and service awards including the USDA New Teacher Award, the Southern Region American Association of Agricultural Educators Teaching Award, the Chancellor’s Academy of Teacher Education award, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean’s Distinguished Service Award for Teaching, the Richard Stadelman Faculty Senate Service Award, and served as speaker of the Faculty Senate in 2018-2019. She has a passion for student success at all levels, PK-20. Dr. Harlin is a certified mediator, serves as a member of the board of trustees for a local school district, and volunteers as a court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system.
ABOUT Nicola L. Ritter
Dr. Nicola Ritter received her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M University in 2014 and M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas A&M University in 2009. Dr. Ritter joined the Veterinary Integrative Biosciences department at Texas A&M University as an Instructional Assistant Professor in 2016. Dr. Ritter’s research focuses on developing and evaluating educational resources. She is the lead investigator for and director of her research lab, the Center for Educational Technologies. She has received over $5.75 million in research funding, with the majority of funds from the United States Department of Agriculture, over 4 years. Dr. Ritter’s research focuses on the development and effectiveness of instructional materials. She has numerous original articles and copyrighted works. Dr. Ritter’s curriculum programs are used in 85 countries with over 4,000 students and 1,000 teachers reached. In addition to her research, Dr. Ritter oversees the CET’s service center consisting of 2 faculty and 7 technical staff. Dr. Ritter received the TAMU GoWeb award for Transformational Education in 2018.
ABOUT Torri Whitaker
Torri Whitaker earned her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and Master of Education in Agriculture Education from Texas A&M University. Upon completion of her degree she worked as a Program Director for an Equine Therapeutic Riding Facility. There she had the opportunity to educate youth about equine science as well as anatomy and physiology; in so doing she discovered a passion for education. She completed the University of Texas at Arlington Transition to Teaching Program obtaining a Secondary Life-Earth Science teaching certificate for grades 6-12. She then spent 9 years teaching middle school science and biology before accepting a position with the PEER Program at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. As a Content Specialist with PEER, she blends her classroom experience and passion for animals to create engaging, real world science curricula.
ABOUT Michele Ward
Michele Ward received her Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and Master of Agriculture (Equine Reproduction) from Texas A&M University. After several years of managing a large horse breeding facility in Kentucky, she answered the call to be an educator. She earned her teacher certifications in Special Education PK-12 and Secondary Science. She has spent 28 years in education, most of that teaching middle and high school science. She was honored to be named Teacher of the Year in two school districts. Her passion is including “real” science content in her lessons by way of hands-on activities and cutting edge science information. It is not unusual to find her students growing gardens, surveying local parks, and collecting authentic scientific data for ongoing citizen science projects. Michele contributes her knowledge of the day-to-day needs of teaching as well as her knowledge of science to create lessons that are both useful and engaging.
ABOUT Harshita Chaudhary
Harshita Chaudhary is currently a Master’s student at Texas A&M University, majoring in Computer Science. She completed her Bachelor of Technology degree in Electronics & Communication Engineering from Vellore Institute of Technology, India. After completing her undergraduate studies, she worked as a software developer at Oracle for three years. She began working on the PEER project in summer 2020 and her work involves developing and maintaining the PEER website. She aims to make the website accessible and up-to-date so that the carefully curated educational content by the PEER team reaches the students and teachers in the best possible way.
ABOUT Sara Brown
Sara Brown graduated summa cum laude from Texas A&M with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences in Fall 2018. During her college career she tutored several local high school students in pre-AP and AP chemistry. After graduating, she began working for Dr. Larry Johnson as a teaching assistant for his Biology of Mammalian Cells and Tissues course. The following summer, she began working with the PEER program. Ms. Brown brings her passion for mammalian biology and education to her work with PEER.