Assistant Professor of Teaching
Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, College of Biological Sciences
Dr. Natalia Caporale's research interests center on issues of equity and diversity in science education, with a focus on understanding the barriers that minority and non-traditional college students face as they pursue their science degrees. Other research interests include implementation and testing of teaching strategies to improve student learning in large lecture courses as well as exploring undergraduate's conceptions of biology. Originally from Argentina, Natalia pursued her Bs in Biology at the University of Buenos Aires and then came to the US where she pursued her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at UC Berkeley focusing on the cellular mechanisms of learning and memory. Following her postdoctoral work with Dr. Linda Wilbrecht studying the effects of early-life adversity on cognitive development and decision making in rodents, Dr. Caporale decided to dedicate herself to undergraduate education, which she adored, and she worked as a lecturer at UC Berkeley and SFSU for several years while also being a Visiting Scholar in Dr. Kimberly Tanner’s lab, where she started her training in science education research.
Identifying and Overcoming Barriers to Students' Success in Science
I aim to identify barriers to the success of minorities and underrepresented students in science majors at UC Davis and develop class interventions and departmental programs to help students overcome these barriers. In particular, I am deeply committed to the success of our transfer students, most of whom are ethnic minorities, first-generation or non-traditional students. For this, I hope to establish projects to involve local community colleges and CSUs.
Improving Science Learning in Large Enrollment Courses
It is a reality of our education system that courses are getting larger and larger and educators are faced with the need to modify our teaching to accommodate this new course format. Research in Physics, Chemistry, and Biology over the last 30 years have identified various strategies that can increase student engagement, participation and learning in large science classrooms. Yet, implementation remains a challenge. As a Faculty in UC Davis, I will be implementing many of these strategies in our classes while collecting evidence of their effectiveness as well as researching the barriers at the student and faculty level that difficult the transition of our courses into to a more active learning, student-centered teaching model.
Conceptual Barriers to Changing People's Minds about Science
One of the most challenging jobs science educators have is to change student's minds about their intuitive ideas about how the physical world works. Such intuitive knowledge is a significant barrier to student's understanding of many fundamental concepts in the sciences. This research project focuses on identifying and documenting the alternative conceptions that students bring into the biology classroom to develop better teaching strategies to help their learning of Biology. In this context, and as a neuroscientist by training, I am very interested in science misconceptions and ways to develop better instructional tools to help students resolve them.
Honors and Awards
- 2015 - Center for the Advancement of Multicultural Perspectives on Science (CAMPOS) Faculty Scholars Program, UC Davis
- 2015 - Biology Scholars Program - Research Internship - ASM
- 2013 - Lecturer Fellows Program, UC Berkeley
- 2005 - "Unsung Hero" GSI, UC Berkeley
- 2002-2007 Howard Hughes Predoctoral Fellowship
- 2001 - HHMI Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) at Caltech
- 2000 - Summer Undergraduate Research Program (URP) at CSHL
- 2007 PhD Neuroscience UC Berkeley
- 2002 Licenciatura Ciencias Biológicas Universidad de Buenos Aires
Thomas A.W.*, Caporale N*, Wu C, Wilbrecht L. (2016). Early maternal separation impacts cognitive flexibility at the age of first independence. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience 18: 49-56 (*co-first authors)
Vandenberg A., Piekarski, D.J., Caporale N., Perez Munoz F.,WIlbrecht L. Adolescent maturation of inhibitory inputs onto cingulate cortex neurons is cell-type specific and TrkB dependent. Front. Neural. Circuits . 9 (5) 1-10.
Han F*, Caporale N*, Dan Y. (2008). Reverberation of recent visual experience in spontaneous cortical waves. Neuron. Oct 23;60(2):321-7. (*co-first authors)
Dalkara D, Kolstad KD, Caporale N, Visel M, Klimczak RR, Schaffer DV, Flannery JG. (2009). Inner limiting membrane barriers to AAV-mediated retinal transduction from the vitreous. Mol Ther 17(12): 2096-102.
Han F*, Caporale N* , Dan Y. (2008). Reverberation of recent visual experience in spontaneous cortical waves. Neuron. Oct 23;60(2):321-7. (*co-first authors)
Caporale N, Dan Y. (2008). Spike timing-dependent plasticity: a Hebbian learning rule. Annu Rev Neurosci. 2008; 31:25-46.