Dr. Bajcz is a new Biology and Environmental Studies professor this semester. Before coming here, he was at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. There he worked in Dr. Nick Balster’s, a soil ecologist, lab on research projects about what invasive earthworms do to the soil in their new environments and how we impact the soil in ways that help or hurt the worms. He also researched the best methods of teaching science and training professors to better teach science. A year long program is run at UW that trains candidates to be assistant professors. They studied if the program made a difference and how you measure if it is.
COURTESY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MAINE
Another research question asked ‘What factors of a student’s background may affect how a student does in an environmental science course’. A result of studying was that students from rural backgrounds frequently receive better grades in environmental science course than their urban background counterparts.
Dr. Bajcz plans to bring his research to Drew’s campus. He studies how plants reproduce. As organisms that are central to many ecosystems, it is important to study them and learn more about them. Reproduction is an important part of their biology. There is a lot still unknown about this, especially reproductive traits. Reproductive traits are characteristics of a plant that help it reproduce. “We don’t necessarily know what the plant is integrating, what kind of information or signals it’s getting from the environment when it’s deciding what “kind” of flowers or fruits it’s going to produce but we know these flowers and fruits vary.” said Dr. Bajcz. “We don’t necessarily know what traits it is about those fruits, flowers, and seeds that make them more or less successful.”
In his lab, he plans to investigate: what limitations prevent a plant from making the best reproductive structure, what happens to a plant when the environment it’s in changes and why fruits are the shape they are. The first step in beginning his research is to fix the greenhouse. There is a space that could be used as a research area or in classes. There are also growth chamber that can grow small plants.
Dr. Bajcz also wants to do field studies to find native plants that produce fleshy fruits and flowers. Then after finding them, figure out abiotic environment and manipulate them by cutting some fruits off and taping them to others, heating up the soil, and cutting off half the flowers to see how it affects pollination rates. Along with field studies, Bajcz wants to put together a review paper of fruits, do simulation modeling and study plant chemistry. “Every research problem is a challenge, it is like a puzzle to figure out.” said Dr. Bajcz. He would like to take on DSSI students to conquer these projects.