Faculty Spotlight: Biology professor helps students find their aha moment

Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Written by: Emily Hollingshead

Photo: Dr. Georgia Lorenz (left) presents Mary Colon with a certificate of appreciation at a Seminole State College Service Luncheon.

Fun Facts:
Last TV show you binged: Outer Banks
Skill you want to learn: To play piano
Best dish you can cook: Take out, though I do make a pretty mean lasagna

“When the students get it – that is the best,” said Professor of Biological Science Mary Colon. “You can see that overall joy in their face when it clicks. Somewhere in their mind the lightbulb goes off and they just radiate!”

Colon has taught at Seminole State College of Florida for 22 years and has had the honor of turning on many of those metaphorical lightbulbs herself, though she knows it is not always as easy as flipping a switch. “That is what I feel is the most important part,” Colon said. “Giving them that freedom to realize that they may not understand it right now, but that understanding will come. They are not the first ones struggling with the material, but they will survive it.”

Mary Colon, professor of biological science.

She easily admits that she retook Organic Chemistry when she was in college, and struggled in the genetics courses she eventually earned her master’s degree in. In fact, Colon’s original plan was to attend medical school with the aim of being a cardiovascular surgeon. However, while she was trying to gain admittance to medical school, she ended up filling in during a lecture for a professor she was assisting and fell in love with a field she had never previously considered: teaching.

Her connection to the medical field is still strong though, as she instructs future medical professionals on the foundational groundwork that guide the rest of their careers. Since the classes she teaches are so critical to the demanding scientific field, Colon aims to make her class challenging, but understandable. “I think our biology department makes the students well rounded and sets them up for success to continue into those allied health fields of nursing, public safety and medicine,” Colon said.

Finding different ways to engage students is something Colon believes the biological sciences department at Seminole State does exceptionally well. Students can explore different topics of interest by engaging in the biology book clubs, participating in study abroad trips, or through the guest speakers the department brings in through the Biology Colloquium series. Even during her non-major classes, Colon tries to find a way for the students to bring their own interests into class, usually encouraging them to do reports on diseases or biology topics that are personal to them.

Now, as she works toward her Ph.D. in psychology with a focus in cognition and instruction, Colon advises new STEM students not to panic or feel fear when they struggle. “If it is your passion, find a way to make it happen. Don’t let that one bad class, bad professor or bad grade stop you. You are going to be scared, you are going to fail sometimes, but if it is what you love, you will find a way.”

Check out our upcoming biological sciences classes and related programs by viewing the course listing on the department’s website.

About Seminole State College

Seminole State College of Florida, established in 1965, serves nearly 30,000 students across six sites in Central Florida. A comprehensive college, Seminole State has awarded more than 100,000 credentials, from bachelor's degrees to high school diplomas, and offers more than 200 degrees, certificates and programs designed for success. For more about the college, visit seminolestate.edu
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