Sara Hiebert Burch of Swarthmore College Recognized for Innovation in the Biology Classroom

Sara Hiebert Burch, the Edward Hicks Magill Professor Emerita of Mathematics and Natural Science at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, received the M. Patricia Morse Award for Excellence and Innovation in Science Education from the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. The award is given annually to an educator who fosters innovation in the classroom.

Professor Hiebert Burch was recognized for her “interactive engagement” activities for her lecture classes. “I eventually moved to a partially ‘flipped’ classroom,” she explains, “so that we could spend more time cementing concepts by using them to solve problems, rather than simply talking about them.” She swapped strategies — so some information that would have been in a lecture was instead presented in videos that students watched before class. “This freed up time for interactive work when we were all together in the classroom,” she says.

“This award means so much to me because the nomination was initiated by former students who have themselves become excellent, innovative teachers in their own right,” says Professor Hiebert Burch, whose work and research focused on animal physiology, specifically torpor, a kind of shallow, short-term hibernation, in hummingbirds and small mammals. Her research has focused on the energy that animals save by entering torpor, the circumstances under which torpor occurs, the ecological functions of torpor and how they change with the seasonal physiological state of the animal, and how seasonal changes in torpor relate to seasonal changes in the production of reproductive and stress hormones.

Professor Hiebert Burch joined the faculty at Swarthmore College in 1994. She is a graduate of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where she majored in zoology. She holds a Ph.D. in zoology from the Univerity of Washington.

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