Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology
My research interests lie at the intersection of biology and how people teach and learn about science. I practice and promote evidence-based effective teaching strategies and conduct research to understand and improve undergraduate biology education through a data-driven approach.
High-impact teaching and learning practices in large-enrollment courses
As undergraduate enrollment continues to grow nationwide, class sizes in both lower- and upper-division courses are increasing. How can high-enrollment biology classes be taught to maximize student engagement, interaction, inclusion, and learning? I collect classroom data to investigate the impact that different teaching practices have on learning and students experience in high-enrollment courses.
Promoting science skills and scientific literacy for the 21st century student
Given the recent revolutionary changes in science, technology, and medicine, how can we reform undergraduate biology curricula to best prepare students for the scientific challenges they will encounter in their careers and lives? I am interested in developing curriculum development that (1) integrates research skills and experiences, critical thinking, and problem-solving in biology and (2) use examples that situate learning about biology in the context of societal and personal issues of interest to provide access points for learning biology and developing strong scientific literacy.
Developing and evaluating best practices for teaching and learning in Genetics
Genetics is a fundamental component of undergraduate biology curricula. Most genetics courses cover content spanning classic Mendelian genetics and central dogma to cloning and genomics. I am interested in modernizing genetics courses to reflect current knowledge and practices that are essential for a 21st century learner as well as investigating effective approaches for learning genetics and mitigating commonly formed misconceptions.
Fostering evidence-based teaching practices among faculty and future faculty
Due to recent national calls, there is an ongoing national effort towards transforming science education that necessitates support and training in evidence-based effective teaching practices. In collaboration with the Center for Educational Effectiveness, I am active in providing resources and leading pedagogical training for faculty. I am also co-leading an effort to develop a program for graduate students in undergraduate scientific teaching with the goal of providing pedagogical training and authentic teaching experience opportunities to graduate students in the biological sciences.
- BIS 101 Genes and Gene Expression, Multiple
- MCB 10 Introduction to Human Heredity, Spring
Honors and Awards
- 2013 - 2016 Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral Fellowship, NIH
- 2007 - 2008 First Year NIH Mol. and Cell Biology Fellowship, UC Davis
- 2006 - 2007 Presidential Undergraduate Fellowship, UC Davis
- 2011 Graduate Studies Graduate Student Travel Award, UC Davis
- 2007 Departmental Citation in Genetics, UC Davis
- 2006 - 2007 First Year Scholar Award, UC Davis
- 2003 - 2007 Northern California Scholarship
- 2003 - 2007 Schwab-Rosenhouse Scholarship
- 2003 - 2004 Maltese-American Scholarship
- Society for the Advancement of Biology Education Research
- American Society of Cell Biology
- Genetics Society of America
- 2007 BS Genetics UC Davis
- 2012 PhD Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology UC Davis
- 2015 Postdoc Heald Lab UC Berkeley
AW Grenfell, M Strzelecka, ME Crowder, KJ Helmke, AL Schlaitz, R Heald. (2016) A versatile multivariate image analysis pipeline reveals features of Xenopus extract spindles. Journal of Cell Biology. 213: 127-36
M Ellefson Crowder, JR Flynn, KP McNally, DB Cortes, KL Price, PA Kuehnert, MT Panzica, A Andaya, J Leary, and FJ McNally. (2015). Dynactin-dependent cortical dynein and spherical shape correlate temporally with meiotic spindle rotation in Caenorhabditis elegans. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 26: 3030-46.
M Ellefson Crowder, M Strzelecka, J Wilbur, M Good, G von Dassow, G and R Heald. (2015) A comparative analysis of spindle morphometrics across metazoans. Current Biology. 25: 1542-50.
KL McNally, AS Fabritius, ML Ellefson, JR Flynn, JA Milan, and FL McNally. (2012). Kinesin-1 prevents capture of the oocyte meiotic spindle by the sperm aster. Developmental Cell. 22: 788-98.
ML Ellefson and FJ McNally. 2011. CDK-1 inhibits meiotic spindle shortening and dynein-dependent spindle rotation in C. elegans. Journal of Cell Biology. 193: 1229-44.
AS Fabritius, ML Ellefson, and FJ McNally. 2010. Nuclear and spindle positioning during oocyte meiosis. Current Opinion Cell Biology. 23: 1-7.
KL McNally, JL Martin, ML Ellefson, and FJ McNally. 2010. Kinesin-dependent transport results in polarized migration of the nucleus in oocytes and inward movement of yolk granules in meiotic embryos. Developmental Biology. 339: 126-140.
ML Ellefson and FJ McNally. 2009. Kinesin-1 and cytoplasmic dynein act sequentially to move the meiotic spindle to the oocyte cortex in Caenorhabditis elegans. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 20: 2722-2730.
A Jaramillo-Lambert, ML Ellefson, AM Villeneuve, and J Engebrecht. 2007. Differential timing of S phases, X chromosome replication, and meiotic prophase in the C. elegans germ line. Developmental Biology. 308: 206-221.