Lynn Ulatowski, Ursuline College – The Concept of the Big Picture

How do we get students to look at the big picture?

Lynn Ulatowski, assistant professor of biology at Ursuline College, describes one method to do so.

Lynn Ulatowski earned a BS in Molecular Biology/Biotechnology from Westminster College in New Wilmington, PA. She earned an MS in Nutrition and a PhD in Molecular Nutrition, both from Case Western Reserve University. Her Dissertation topic was: Regulation of Vitamin E and Tocopherol Transfer protein, for which she received the Academic Excellence Award. As a Post-doctoral fellow, Dr. Ulatowski researched Vitamin E transport in the central nervous system, which is particularly relevant to oxidative stress associated diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Down Syndrome. Her research also includes delineating how modifications of Tiam1 GEF influences activation of Rho GTPases and progression of colon cancer.

The Concept of the Big Picture


How often do students come in with a stack of index cards and say “look how much I studied”.   There is a place for note cards and rote learning but students can be encouraged to take those index cards to the next level.  One way to do this is by using a concept map strategy. A concept map is a graphical method that allows students to start with core ideas and essentially build and link from those main ideas to related topics.  A concept map not only allows students to summarize, visualize and organize but importantly it encourages students to step away from linear learning and examine the big picture.  Often time students do not realize how concepts and ideas fit together and impact each other.   

However it is important for students to recognize how a topic fits in to a bigger perspective because it helps them to learn, apply and understand why something matters and gives the information added value.  There are numerous methods of concept mapping to use.  For students that have that stack of index cards, they can spread them out on a table, like a puzzle to see how things are related. 

Alternatively, one can use an “old school” paper and pencil method, because as research demonstrates, writing something down promotes and reinforces learning.  A fun method for students is to use a chalkboard or a dry erase board. For the more tech savvy students, there are numerous free concept map apps that have the benefit of always being accessible, added to and saved right on the phone. Whichever method of concept mapping a student chooses, the concept will take students from just remembering to a more complex level of learning.

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