Dan Brabander is a Professor of Geosciences, Frost Professor Environmental Sciences, at Wellesley College.
Fostering integration as a way of thinking. Brabander offers “Big Idea” courses that introduce systems thinking in applied and messy problem spaces. Course goals are centered on taking a crude look at the whole to determine a path of inquiry. Approach focuses on transdisciplinary theories (e.g., see open syllabus project: paradigms) while fostering intrinsic motivation through project based collaborative learning. Deliverables are aimed at de novo authorship of scientific narratives. Three recent courses have been designed with these goals as a framework: (1) SUST220(Wellesley) AHSE2199A/SCI2099A (Olin) Paradigms, Predictions, and Joules: A Historical and Scientific Approach to Energy and the Environment (2) GEOS/ES 201 (Wellesley) Environmental, Health, and Sustainability Sciences (3) ASTR/GEOS 120 (Wellesley) Planetary Habitability: Past, Present, and Future. These applied alternative on-ramps into STEM have attracted a higher percentage of both URM and first generation students. In 2010, Brabander was awarded the Wellesley College’s Pinanski Prize for Excellence in Teaching.
Integration leading to new disciplines. Informed by research experiences at both Parsons Lab at MIT and Harvard School of Public Health, Brabander’s current research is at the intersection of environmental health and medical geosciences and has helped shape and define an emergent new discipline: “geohealth.”
Professor Brabander’s research team comprises undergraduates learning science by doing science, citizen scientists, and not for profit organizations. Projects have been featured in numerous media outlets including NPR, ABC news, the Boston Globe, and Time Magazine. His current research focus is environmental geochemistry, health, and sustainable urban agriculture.