Similar to the freshmen in her BELS101 class, Dr. Judy Schoonmaker is also making the difficult transition from high school to college. She currently teaches at D’Evelyn High School in Lakewood, Colorado, and comes to the Colorado School of Mines campus to lecture in the afternoons.
Her interest in science stems from her family. She says simply, “Science was what happened at home.” She recalls her brother dissecting a worm for school, explaining, “I was jealous because I wanted to dissect a worm. My dad was really cool because he took me out into the backyard and we dug up worms… and then I dissected them at home.”
Driven by her desire to discover more, Schoonmaker attended the University of Illinois and “ended up in a seminar on reproductive physiology. It was taught by a guy who is actually the grandfather of reproductive physiology. It was the only undergraduate seminar he ever taught. And I got totally hooked.”
Schoonmaker relies on this love of biology to motivate her students. Obviously, controlling a lecture hall of 100 college freshmen is more challenging than a classroom of 30 high school students. She soon realized, “I’ve got to get these guys totally hooked.” Her goal is to “work this biology plus engineering angle and make it so enticing to kids, that they’re fascinated by it.”
In addition to her profession, Schoomaker’s three daughters are an important part of her life. The eldest is at Johns Hopkins University working on her doctorate, and her youngest is a recent college graduate volunteering for the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan. And her middle daughter “didn’t know if she was going to do a double degree in microbiology and infectious disease or go the more creative route.” She did choose the more creative route and applies her talents to making costumes for operas.
Although she was born and grew up on the east coast, Schoonmaker fits right in with many of Colorado’s classic activities like back-country skiing, hiking, and biking. She said, “I like to be outside.” She also knits and enjoys weaving her own fabric which she uses for sewing.
Overall, Schoonmaker is very excited to teach at the college level. She explains, “I like the college kid. I don’t really mind working with a more grown-up kid.” To her, CSM has turned out to be a very friendly campus. “They’re just nice people. Everyone I’ve run into, adults and kids, are beyond helpful.”
In the future, she wants to teach more in depth courses at CSM. “I always enjoy learning more. For me to make a move from high school to here is really fun because it’s mentally stimulating.”