For CSM Professor Edith Carron, It’s a Small, Small World

Professor Edith Carron is the first recipient of the College of Southern Maryland’s Part-time Faculty Excellence Award

Edith Carron doesn’t see the world like most people do. The recent winner of the College of Southern Maryland’s first Part-time Faculty Excellence Award, Carron teaches her students to appreciate the complexity of the truly small things in the world like microbes, bacteria, protists and parasites.

Carron, who has been on the faculty at CSM’s Leonardtown Campus since 2003, teaches microbiology and zoology, but her discussions regarding microbiology are the ones that really engage her students. “I mainly teach nursing students and they are constantly challenging me because they are constantly reading books and keeping up on the academic journals. They know what they want, and what they want is real-world working situations, and luckily I can provide this,” said Carron, who holds a master of science in microbiology and a doctorate in molecular biology, all from the University of Latvia.

“Her love and knowledge of microbiology motivates her students and she pushes you academically. Her courses are for those who have an extreme passion to succeed and obtain knowledge,” described Lia Roper, a student in Carron’s Biology 2010 who will transfer to a four-year college in the fall to major in biology and pre-pharmacy. “Professor Carron is not a professor for unmotivated students. She is demanding but the students who are taking her are either pre-medicine, pre-pharmacy, pre-veterinarian or nursing students. An A in her class is the result of backbreaking, strenuous, tear-jerking work and it is all worth it because microbiology is not a subject for the weak.”

Prior to coming to CSM, Carron worked for a bio-tech company and the National Institutes of Health. “I did research on emerging pathogens like anthrax, small pox, equine encephalitis, etc. So I hold three or four mini-seminars on current microbiology topics such as mad cow disease, West Nile virus, HIV, bird-flu and emerging antibiotic resistance. Students are really drawn to these topics because there isn’t a good understanding of them even though they are so prevalent in the news. So we will talk about how bacteria resistance is becoming a major threat and the commercial application of anti-bacterial soaps, lotions and gels and how they really are unnecessary unless you have a serious immune condition. We’ll discuss how these anti-bacterial additives not only kill ‘bad’ bacteria, they kill the good bacteria, too. We’ll discuss how we can educate our patients which in this case means teaching them that all they really need is plain soap, water and a good rubbing action,” said Carron, who noted that she never thought she would end up designing seminars on different emerging pathogens.

“Both of my parents were chemists so I was naturally inclined to science. When I was younger, I thought I would study medicine and become a doctor. But, dissection turned me off, so I started to study viruses like HIV because they are so fascinating. They are constantly adapting and we have to learn to live with them, and this is what I tell my students,” said Carron.

“Viruses become a threat when they adapt faster than we do by jumping from one host species to another, like in bird flu, or when they team up with another virus or when we become complacent in our actions. We are seeing a significant rise in the number of polio and measles cases because people have stopped immunizing their children,” said Carron.

She said that she wished she could give more seminars, but noted that “time is so limited and the students have so much they have to learn. I try to cover as much as possible without intimidating them.”

“The hardest thing for some of our students to learn is the concept of what studying means. It means setting aside time for learning. Too often our students need to study but they don’t have the time or don’t know how to study. Some students come in with the misconception that because CSM is a community college the classes are going to be easy. But, the biological sciences are a challenge. There is an incredible amount of memorization involved; you need to know how to apply the concepts; you need to know how to calculate the proper dilutions of medications etc. It is a lot of work but it is also so gratifying,” she said.

Carron joins 19 members of CSM’s faculty who have been recognized by their peers, since 1989, for making outstanding contributions to teaching, curriculum and profession development with the college and the community at-large. “I’m so glad part-time faculty is finally being recognized. We work just as hard to engage our students. Students really respond when teachers actively teach. It is what we should all be doing,” said Carron.

For information on biological science classes call 301-934-7843 or 301-870-2309, Ext. 7843 for Charles County; 240-725-5499, Ext. 7843 for St. Mary’s County or 443-550-6199, Ext. 7483 for Calvert County or visit http://www.itc.csmd.edu/bio/.

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