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Justin Frost standing in front of shrubbery

A passion for communicating science

By Srila Nayak

Justin Frost, senior in microbiology

Microbiology senior Justin Frost ('16) has been an enthusiastic and eloquent public relations ambassador for the College of Science, communicating his love for science and the University to diverse audiences. He has also been a prolific science writer and reporter for the campus newspaper The Daily Barometer.

After graduation, Justin heads to Boise, Idaho, to teach science in a public school as part of the Teach for America program.

Now he is eager to take his love and fascination with science to 6th-12th graders. The selection process was rather rigorous: in 2015, 4,100 Teach for America candidates were recruited from 44,181 applicants. But after acing a number of standardized science tests, Justin has been certified to teach biology, chemistry and earth science.

Teach for America recruits motivated and accomplished graduates from top U.S. universities to serve as teachers for a period of two years at schools in low-income and underserved communities.

Justin is elated and can’t wait to start. “My plan right now is to be the best teacher I possibly can be.”

The wide-ranging applications of science that he encountered in the classroom and laboratories as well as in his adventurous everyday life as a mountain biker and hiker has been Justin’s source of inspiration. He hopes to transfer the significance and beauty of science to his students.

“My coursework in immunology has been really influential. It helped me see the impact of how the human immune system interacts with the environment,” said Justin.

“Learning about microbial diversity and microbes in the human environment has made me understand the dynamism of the biological world.”

Justin observed that while his foundational coursework has been remarkable, it was equally instructional and rewarding to engage people in the community with science as an outreach volunteer and ambassador.

Justin had an opportunity to deliver his Teach for America sample lesson plan to a general microbiology class before his final interview.

“I got so much great feedback from the students and my microbiology advisors that I was able to go to my interview and just knock out my lesson plan. Having this community has been extremely helpful for applying to Teach for America.”

Justin describes his journey in microbiology and Teach for America as a series of happy accidents. An Oregon native, Justin arrived at OSU as a bioengineering major and discovered that the discipline wasn’t quite what he was looking for. Instead, he was drawn to the subjects of genetics, evolution and the science of the natural world.

While attending the hugely popular Corvallis Science Pub—one of his favorite science events, Justin happened to meet a scientist from OSU’s Linus Pauling Institute and asked him about undergraduate research opportunities there.

The person turned out to be Dr. Stephen Lawson, a former director of Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine, and he encouraged Justin to write to him. One thing led to another, and Justin snagged a research opportunity in biochemist Dr. Adrian Gombart’s lab. He performed molecular biology research and acquired a solid understanding of how RNA and DNA molecules interact with one another in living systems.

Justin promptly changed his major to microbiology.

“My science education has been finding out what I want to do,” said Justin. “I found out that I am passionate about communicating health and science issues to the larger public. Here I got a chance and the tools to understand and talk about the natural world and the world in general.”

Justin plans to obtain a master’s degree in STEM education and continue on his path of teaching.