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James Blankenship

Senior Lecturer; Director of Undergraduate Studies, Concentration of Biochemistry, Molecular, and Cell Biology

219 Stimson Hall
(607) 255-1983

Jim Blankenship is a senior lecturer in the Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics. He has been and continues to be actively engaged in the Biology Curriculum and is the Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Biochemistry and Molecular and Cell Biology Programs of Studies.

Teaching Focus

I first began teaching as an undergraduate teaching assistant at Cornell. After that experience which spanned several semesters, it was clear to me that teaching was the career that I wanted to pursue. I, therefore, consider myself incredibly fortunate to be teaching at Cornell. As an employee, I have been teaching since 1981. I first taught laboratories in biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology. I then began teaching survey courses in biochemistry. The goal of these courses is to expose students to the major groups of biologically important molecules with a special emphasis on the protein enzymes that catalyze most biologically important reactions. My main focus became the Individualized Instruction course in Biochemistry (BIOMG 3300). It is staffed by myself and a small army of undergraduate TAs most of whom have taken the class, performed at a very high level, and realized their passion for the subject. One of my major responsibilities for the class is to organize and train this group of TAs who then go out and provide personalized instruction to the students enrolled in the class. Both the TA class (BIOMG 4980) and the student class (BIOMG 3300) are extremely popular and I take pride in being associated with them.

On the “side”, I teach a “seminar style” class to enhance the learning of our biochemistry students (BIOMG 3340). A major focus of this class is the use of computer graphics to learn about the structure and function of biologically important molecules. As is true for BIOMG 3300, we use a large variety of active learning techniques. Because I felt as an undergraduate at Cornell that there were not enough opportunities for students to gain public speaking experience. I made it a priority to include a public speaking assignment in the class.

Many years ago, I spent my summer months teaching molecular biology to high school biology teachers as part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute funded Cornell Institute for Biology Teachers (CIBT). More recently, I have taught a wide variety of classes as part of the Cornell Summer Session including a senior-level and a freshman-level survey course in cell Biology (BIOMG 1350 and BIOMG 4320), and a lecture course in Biochemistry (BIOMG 3330).

I try to stay up to date on new teaching technologies by attending teaching oriented workshops. This sometimes involves travel but more often includes attendance at workshops offered locally by the Center for Teaching Excellence. To the extent possible, I include the new techniques into my classes. Since that is not always feasible, I have occasionally created such opportunities by teaching BIOMG 1250, a short course on HIV, Immunology, and Drug Design that I developed for freshmen in the biological sciences. This has given me the opportunity to play with flipped classroom techniques, including the use of case studies.

I am the Director of Undergraduate Studies for two concentrations within the Biology major: Biochemistry and Molecular/Cell Biology. In this role, I have played an active part in the evolution of the new biology curriculum and its assessment.

I advise a large number of students including both freshmen and upperclassmen. In this role, I try to stay up to date on program requirements and to make myself as accessible to my advisees as is humanly possible.

Awards and Honors

  • Stephen H. Weiss Provost's Teaching Fellow (2016) Cornell University
  • Merrill Outstanding Educator Award (2017) (2017) Cornell University
  • Merrill Outstanding Educator Award (2012) Cornell University (2012)
  • Harry T. Stinson Jr. Award (2010) Office of Undergraduate Biology
  • Merrill Outstanding Educator Award (2010) Cornell University