Michelle Harris, PhD

Position title: Emeritus Teaching Faculty

Email: maharris@wisc.edu


  • Biocore 324/486 (Principles of Physiology Lab) Chair
  • Biocore 304/384 (Cell Biology Lab) Co-Chair


  • Biocore 485 (Principles of Physiology Lecture) Chair


  • Biocore Outreach Ambassador Advisor


I was privileged to teach honors Biocore students for 23 years, interacting with some of the most highly motivated, hardworking and inspiring students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During this time I spent 18 years as the advisor to the Biocore Outreach Ambassador Program, begun in 2004 by selfless Biocore students interested in working with K12 teachers and students to enhance science education. I deeply valued mentoring the many graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants, teaching post-docs, and undergraduate researchers I partnered with inside and outside the Biocore classroom.

I earned my PhD from the UW-Madison Zoology Department in 1999, focusing on vertebrate functional morphology. I investigated the morphological and physiological determinants of maximal leaping performance in domestic cats. Specifically, I found that hind limb length and body fat composition significantly influence cat leaping performance. I continue to view the world through a lens that seeks connections between form and function, and this viewpoint significantly influenced my teaching and education research, transcending biological phyla, size scales, and scientific disciplines.

My biology education research focus stems from my curiosity about how the student-centered, Process of Science (POS) approach we use through four Biocore semesters affects student learning. I’ve worked with many talented colleagues, post-docs, and graduate students on various biology education research projects implemented in Biocore lecture and lab settings. Many of these projects have resulted in instructional materials and approaches that have been woven into our integrated Biocore curriculum. (You can view publications summarizing many of these projects.) Most recently, the POS teaching approach and the Biocore Outreach Ambassadors’ work with K12 students has inspired me to co-author a non-fiction children’s picture book entitled “The Scientist You Know Best”.