Jennifer McMahon joined Kenyon in 2008 and is the lead instructor and director of the introductory biology labs. The focus of her work at Kenyon is on teaching the essentials of writing and thinking analytically within the framework of biological questions. McMahon's research interests relate to plant chemical responses to environmental stimuli. She is particularly interested in the role of plant cyanogens as signaling molecules.

In addition to her teaching role in the Department of Biology, McMahon also has been involved with the KEEP summer program, and works with high school biology teachers through the KAP program.

Areas of Expertise

Plant biochemistry, plant physiology

Education

1997 — Doctor of Philosophy from The Ohio State University

1990 — Bachelor of Science from Gettysburg College

Courses Recently Taught

This is the first laboratory course a student takes and is a prerequisite for all upper-division laboratory courses. Students are introduced to the processes of investigative biology and scientific writing. It is not designed to accompany any particular core lecture course. Laboratories cover topics presented in the core lecture courses, BIOL 115 and 116, and introduce a variety of techniques and topics, including field sampling, microscopy, PCR, gel electrophoresis, enzyme biochemistry, physiology, evolution and population biology. The course emphasizes the development of inquiry skills through active involvement in experimental design, data collection and management, statistical analysis, integration of results with information reported in the literature, and writing in a format appropriate for publication. The year culminates in six-week student-designed investigations that reinforce the research skills developed during the year. Evaluation is based on laboratory notebooks, lab performance, and scientific papers, as well as oral and written presentations summarizing the independent project. Enrollment is limited to 16 students in each section. Students enrolled in this course will be automatically added to BIOL 110Y for the spring semester. Prerequisite: completion or concurrent enrollment in BIOL 115 or equivalent. Required for the major.

This is the first laboratory course a student takes and is a prerequisite for all upper-division laboratory courses. Students are introduced to the processes of investigative biology and scientific writing. It is not designed to accompany any particular core lecture course. Laboratories cover topics presented in the core lecture courses, BIOL 115 and 116, and introduce a variety of techniques and topics, including field sampling, microscopy, PCR, gel electrophoresis, enzyme biochemistry, physiology, evolution and population biology. The course emphasizes the development of inquiry skills through active involvement in experimental design, data collection, statistical analysis, integration of results with information reported in the literature and writing in a format appropriate for publication. The year culminates in six-week student-designed investigations that reinforce the research skills developed during the year. Evaluation is based on short reports, quizzes, lab performance and scientific papers, as well as oral and written presentations based on the independent project. Enrollment is limited to 16 students in each section. Prerequisite: completion or concurrent enrollment in BIOL 115 or equivalent. Required for the major.

Energy flow is a unifying principle across a range of living systems, from cells to ecosystems. With energy flow as a major theme, this course covers macromolecules, cells, respiration and photosynthesis, physiology and homeostasis, population and community interactions, and ecosystems. Throughout the course, the diversity of life is explored. The course also introduces students to the process of scientific thinking through discussion of research methodology and approaches. This course is required for the major and as such, Biology majors should take this class prior to the junior year. No prerequisite. Offered every year. Required for the major although AP or IB credit can be applied against this course.

This course provides the student with the opportunity to pursue an independent investigation of a topic of special interest not covered, or not covered in depth, in the current curriculum. The investigation, designed in consultation with the chosen faculty mentor, may be designed to earn .25 or .5 unit of credit in a semester. BIOL 393 is ordinarily is a library-oriented investigation. (For laboratory-oriented independent research, see BIOL 385.) Normally, students receive credit for no more than two semesters of individual study. Individual study does not fulfill the natural science diversification requirement, nor does it count toward the requirements for the major. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh day of classes, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study well in advance, preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise a syllabus and seek departmental approval before the established deadline.

In this course, students will gain experience analyzing, interpreting, and critiquing quantitative claims and communicating results and conclusions using graphical representations of data. Examples will be drawn from across the natural and social sciences, with context provided for each data set, so that students from any disciplinary background can participate in and benefit from this course. This course has no pre-requisites. It will be taught at a level accessible to all Kenyon students. Excellent preparation for further work on quantitative topics, this course will hone students' ability to apply mathematical techniques including graphing, statistics, linear and non-linear regression, and modeling the graphical behavior of mathematical functions to understanding and interpreting data. Students will practice these skills by engaging in critical reading of primary sources, oral presentation of quantitative data, and expression of analytic ideas in writing. Assessment will be based on in-class assignments, monthly quizzes, and oral reports on data-driven projects selected in consultation with the instructor.