Miranda's research bridges the study of how cells work, with how to teach undergraduate students how cells work. Miranda is working to improve the student learning experience, by applying the findings of educational research to real-world biology classrooms. 

Research Description

Dissertation tite: Mapping Xylan Biosynthesis in the Golgi of Developing Xylem

In every animal, plant and fungal cell, is a structure called the Golgi apparatus. It was discovered over 100 years ago, and is now known to be essential for the function of the cell, and for organisms as a whole. For example, a protein in the Golgi is responsible for establishing your ABO blood type, and 30% of the material in wood is made in the Golgi of plant cells. Despite the importance of this structure, much of Golgi function is still a mystery. In my research, I use high powered microscopes to give me a snapshot of the Golgi at a single point in time. These snapshots can then be stitched together, to give us a better understanding of how materials are made in, and move through, the Golgi.

What does being a Public Scholar mean to you?

To me, a public scholar is someone who acknowledges the investment our society is making in the research that we do, and strives to be respectful of that. Part of this can include things like including communities and the public in our research, communicating our results in ways that are meaningful to the public, or taking that next step to bridge the gap between academic research and real-world application to facilitate a more immediate return on society's investment.

In what ways do you think the PhD experience can be re-imagined with the Public Scholars Initiative?

As PhD students, we are told that graduate school teaches us more than the 'hard skills' specific to our disciplines. While this is certainly true, it can be easy to relegate other kinds of work and self-improvement to spare moments and 'free time'. I feel like this can easily lead to a grad school career that feels harried, disjointed, and frustrating. I think that the Public Scholars Initiative legitimizes non-traditional, but important, parts of the PhD experience. This means that we can devote the time and attention that we feel are required to grow our skills.

How do you envision connecting your PhD work with broader career possibilities?

A traditional PhD treats teaching training as an 'extra', to be pursued independently and treated separately from the PhD program. Incorporation of a teaching project into my PhD means that I can afford to devote substantial time to improving my teaching and that this work will be formally evaluated and recognized as part of my dissertation. All of this will better prepare me for a career in teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning, a field that is experiencing growth in Canada, and internationally.

How does your research engage with the larger community and social partners?

Part of the focus of my research is to make connections between educators, students, and research in the fields of education, psychology and the sciences. Educators at UBC have identified a real need for assessment and improvement in an undergraduate course at UBC. I will be getting input from students, instructors, support facilities, and the literature, to make decisions about how the course might be improved. After implementing these changes, I can then go back to these stakeholders and share the results.

How do you hope your work can make a contribution to the “public good”?

In my project, I am bridging the gap between doing science, and teaching others how to do science. I am taking the skills I have learned in my own research, to help undergraduate students gain their own skills. Researchers in education and psychology have advanced our understanding of how people learn best, but these advancements need to be applied to real-world classrooms to test their efficacy in different situations, and to make sure that students have the best chance to learn. My project focuses on how to improve support for students learning problem solving skills, and learning how to use evidence to to make and defend an argument. Improvements in our educational practices are felt not only by the students being educated, but by society at large, when it alters how people see the world and how they make decisions.

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I started graduate school because I wanted to be more involved in the process of research. Pursuing a graduate degree gives you the opportunity to explore an intriguing gap in our understanding of how the world works, and to share your insights with others, for the betterment of our cultures and communities. This was something I wanted to be involved in and contribute to.

Why did you choose to come to British Columbia and study at UBC?

I came to UBC because of the amazing and supporting community it offers, especially in my program. Another huge draw was all the opportunities for grad student professional development outside of the traditional pHD program.


To me, a public scholar is someone who acknowledges the investment our society is making in the research that we do, and strives to be respectful of that".