Biology Professor Selected for Leading Women Under 40 Award

Dr. Jennifer Kerr Honored for Teaching and Research Excellence
A picture of Dr. Kerr teaching next to the NDMU logo

(BALTIMORE, Md.) – A microbiologist and associate professor at Notre Dame of Maryland University was selected for a 2022 Leading Women Under 40 award by The Daily Record.

Dr. Jennifer Kerr has conducted original research to advance knowledge in the microbiology field and to support future scientists in Maryland, the nation, and the world. The Daily Record’s Leading Women Under 40 honors women aged 40 or younger for their career accomplishments. A panel of judges selected the winners based on their professional experience, community involvement, and a commitment to inspiring change.

“Dr. Kerr is a powerhouse within the Biology Department,” said Dr. Rebecca Zordan, department chair. “She is constantly innovating course activities, incorporating independent research within microbiology courses. These experiences give students unequalled perspective on how to conduct research and the critical thought that goes into experimental design and analysis of results.”

For her innovative teaching and commitment to science education, Dr. Kerr was selected for the highly competitive National Science Foundation-funded fellowship, High-throughput Discovery Science & Inquiry-based Case Studies for Today’s Students (HITS). As a 2021-23 HITS fellow, she is part of a cohort of distinguished research faculty who are designing curriculum to teach high-throughput discovery methods, or big data analytics, to undergraduates around the country. Dr. Kerr’s leadership in exploring new frontiers in science education is enabling the NDMU Biology Department to introduce students to these advanced research methods that are used by scientists in the world’s top research institutes.

As an NDMU faculty researcher since 2013, she has mentored more than 200 undergraduate students on course-based and independent projects, investigating techniques to defeat antibiotic resistance. Two of her students placed in the top three in a competitive statewide undergraduate research awards program from the American Society for Microbiology’s Maryland Branch. Dr. Kerr also co-authored several scientific journal articles and a book chapter related to teaching microbiology, dental research, and antibiotic resistance. Her most recent journal article, published in 2022, focuses on leveraging instructor communities to create anti-racist curriculum, which addresses ways to break down barriers for under-represented groups to advance in STEM. In addition, she has worked to develop patent-protected non-invasive research technology to control tooth decay, one of the most widespread oral diseases disproportionately affecting low-income children, the working poor, and the elderly.

Dr. Kerr is passionate about making science education accessible and exciting to all people. That desire has led her to volunteer since 2020 on the curriculum design committee for Tiny Earth, a global initiative to encourage and retain STEM students to address the worldwide crisis of the diminishing supply of effective antibiotics. She is one of initiative’s lead instructors in the effort to expand outreach to students from under-represented groups. She has also volunteered since 2014 as an evaluator for the Regeneron Science Talent Search, the nation’s most prestigious science research competition for high school seniors.

Her leadership is advancing the microbiology profession. As president of the American Society for Microbiology’s Maryland Branch, she has led an effort to highlight early career scientists, support science community programming, and promote science communication. She is also president-elect of the International Association of Dental Research’s Microbiology and Immunology Group, previously serving as its vice president and treasurer. In those roles, she helped to promote oral health research, fostering the communication and application of research findings in microbiology and immunology-based dental science and providing networking and collaboration opportunities for new and established oral health researchers.

Established in 1895, Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU) is a private, Catholic institution in Baltimore, Maryland, with the mission to educate leaders to transform the world. Notre Dame has been named one of the best "Regional Universities North" by U.S. News & World Report.

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