When Jenifer Martin attended college in her native Southern California, she originally set out to become a social worker.
“I started out as a psychology major, but then I took a neuropsychology class and became fascinated with brain chemistry and physiology,” says Martin, assistant professor
of biology at County College of Morris (CCM). She added biochemistry to her major at California State University, then went on to earn a master’s degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale.
When she graduated, she sought a position in biopharmaceutical research. Unable to find one, her brother-in-law, who worked at an art institute, suggested she fill a position there as a science teacher.
“I found that I really enjoyed teaching, so I began looking for academic positions,”
While starting her teaching career at an art school, she discovered that her greatest hurdle – and sense of accomplishment – came from finding ways to reach students who did not typically “get” science.
“Trying to reach creative people in more creative ways was a challenge,” she admits. “But it was gratifying to see students who struggled with science in the past come to understand it.”
She says that being a teacher requires patience. “There are times you think you are being very clear about a concept and you see a student who doesn’t understand. You have to realize that not everybody thinks the same way. My class materials are constantly evolving so I can reach as many students as possible.” She does that by
incorporating videos and podcasts into her courses, as well as spending time with students outside of class.
Science Career Creates Unique World View
A career in science has offered Martin a unique world view. “Biology is the study of life and that’s all around us. I have an eight-month-old child now and the new thought on
teaching your children anything like language is that talking to them helps them learn.”
So she picks up flowers to show her daughter and talks about monocots, dicots and chemical elements, as only a science teacher would. Martin admits it might be an unusual approach to parenting, but quips, “I may have the only toddler out there who already knows some of the chemical elements!”