Biology students, faculty tackle course adjustments


In the weeks since Jeff Parmelee, associate professor of biology, resigned from his post, the department he once taught in is working hard to fill the void left by his departure.

At the time of his resignation, Parmelee was teaching three different classes, supervising a student’s research project and overseeing another student’s internship. Amy Doling, associate professor of biology, is now teaching Parmelee’s Senior Colloquium course, “People and Plagues,” and Ryan Rehmeier, assistant professor of biology, has taken over his Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy course.

Jackie Brittingham, associate professor of biology and chair of the department of biology, is currently supervising three faculty graduate students from Des Moines University College of Osteopathic Medicine, who are teaching Parmelee’s Human Anatomy course.

“The Anatomy professors are delivering their lectures via SCHOLAR with ‘Camtasia,’ which combines a PowerPoint slide show with voice-over technology,” Brittingham said. “Students can listen to the lectures anywhere, anytime. Our students are learning cadaver dissection now from the faculty and graduate students who will be their instructors in medical school next year.”

In addition to supervising the graduate students, Brittingham is also supervising Parmelee’s student currently involved in an off-campus internship. Additionally, Parmelee’s scheduled May Term course to Belize with Rehmeier will proceed as planned. Brittingham said another faculty member has joined Rehmeier for the trip.

As for the future, Brittingham said there are currently plans in place for Parmelee’s scheduled courses for both this coming fall and next spring semester.

“Dr. Parmelee’s Bio 110 lecture section has been dropped and I will combine two sections into one large lecture section,” Brittingham said. “Two of the four labs associated with this course will be taught by a part-time instructor, the other two by myself.”

One of the more challenging tasks is finding someone to take over Parmelee’s Human Anatomy course for next spring, which features cadaver dissection. Brittingham said a part-time instructor will be hired for this role.

“This course is a distinct feature of biology at Simpson College and will present us with one of the greatest challenges for replacing Dr. Parmelee,” Brittingham said.

Another challenge will be to find someone to teach a course on herpetology.

“We will be hiring a part-time instructor to teach a course in the time slot that was scheduled for Parmelee’s herpetology course,” Brittingham said. “We will be advertising soon for someone who can teach either herpetology or any other course that will fulfill the same catalog requirement for our majors.”

Junior biology major Armando C. Andrade had Parmelee for lab his freshman year.

“It’s unfortunate he had to leave, but everybody has their reasons for doing what they do,” Andrade said.

Andrade added it will be a challenge to fill his shoes, especially in the area of herpetology.

“He was really passionate about it,” Andrade said. “It will be tough to fill the void.”

Brittingham said that there were many challenges facing the department, particularly with the abrupt departure of Parmelee.

“The biggest challenge was finding faculty willing to teach a course with no time to prepare,” Brittingham said. “There are not a lot of unemployed or underemployed biology professors hanging out in the greater Des Moines area. We were fortunate to have faculty in the department who were able to make the sacrifices necessary in their own personal and professional lives to take on two of the three courses. We had all of the classes covered within a week, which was remarkable. The faculty at DMU were on our campus working with our students on the first scheduled lab session.”

Brittingham said that this has been a very difficult time for everybody involved in the biology department.

“The students have had to adjust to new professors, new teaching styles, new technology, and new testing styles,” Brittingham said. “We have all appreciated the support of the administration and our colleagues and we look forward to the future with the hopes that we will be fortunate enough to hire another great colleague.”

As of the date of printing, there was no job listing for a biology professor listed on Simpson’s Web site.