Sarah C. R. Elgin

Viktor Hamburger Professor of Arts and Sciences; Professor of Biology, Genetics, Education

Sally Elgin is the kind of person who identifies problems and fixes them in permanent ways so that others also shine. Early in her time in St. Louis, she discovered that the science curriculum was lacking in area elementary schools. Sally addressed this by setting up the infrastructure for the Washington University community to participate in making science education better for St. Louis students.

The science outreach program that Sally started is now the Institute for School Partnership (ISP) which reaches tens of thousands of school children in the St. Louis area in many different ways. ISP provides crates that teachers can check out containing all the materials for hands-on learning on hundreds of specific topics. It also provides hot topics workshops, one day professional development for teachers, effective methods of teaching evolution, and much more. Since Sally’s early vision, ISP has taken on a life of its own and connected schools and teachers to the university.

Starting the Institute for School Partnership and seeing it flourish would be more than enough for most faculty members with a research career so esteemed it warranted election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, but Sally has brought another teaching outreach passion to underserved students in the form of her Genomics Education Partnership. Across America, professors from primarily undergraduate institutions can learn how to involve their students in untangling the mysteries of our genes, our genomes, and the proteins for which they code. For those that cannot take her workshop, she has designed a series of web-based modules.

Sally is helping guide the Biology Department by letting new and prospective faculty know how much the department and the university care about education. Her vision has “laid the foundation to cultivate the region’s next generation of STEM professionals and made ISP the hub for STEM education in the St. Louis region,” said biology professor Joan Strassmann. “Sally is a tireless leader and innovator in science education.”