Michael Ayers
Cedar Rapids, IA

In today’s competitive job market, University of Iowa graduate students need professional development opportunities to sharpen their skills outside the classroom or lab.

Fortunately, such opportunities are available, thanks to alumni who teach in Iowa’s K-12 schools.
Michael Ayers, a native Iowan from Iowa City, earned his Ph.D. in Teaching and Learning (Language, Literacy, and Culture) from the UI. He now teaches English and language arts at John F. Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids.

Ayers wants his students to hear about research and creative work at the graduate level. And, having earned a Ph.D., Ayers knows graduate students need to practice to hone their abilities to speak about their work in concise, clear, and compelling terms. Ayers invites UI graduate scholars to deliver short, powerful presentations to Kennedy students at a forum called Smart Lunches, a format similar to TED talks.

Recent Smart Lunches at Kennedy High School include:

Sebastian De Pascuale, doctoral student in physics and astronomy—De Pascuale spoke about his path to finding his passion in science. His talk drew over 90 students.

Amy Belfi, doctoral student in neuroscience— Belfi discussed her research about how the brain associates music with particular memories. Over 100 students attended.

Mark Pooley, doctoral student in neuroscience—Pooley talked about the local and global impact of developing infrastructure that supports sustainable living. He showed the positive effects of bike paths by processing data during the presentation to create maps based on the Kennedy High School attendance area.

Tina Tootle, assistant professor in anatomy and cell biology—Tootle talked about how scientists use model species to learn important details about human medicine and disease.