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Interview with Dr. Lawrence Walker, UNLV

As any student at UNLV can tell you, there’s more to Las Vegas than just casinos and showgirls. Less than two miles away from the famous Las Vegas strip, thousands of undergraduates are finding enjoyment in a different way – through education.

Dr. Lawrence Walker – a professor of ecology at UNLV – learned from his college experience that traditional lectures are not always the best way to engage the students.

“I promised that if I were to become an educator I would minimize [those boring lectures],” Walker says. “I would really try to excite the students.”

It’s a teaching style that Walker started using in Puerto Rico where Walker said his students were excited to be in college which, in turn, made him excited. It wasn’t long before Walker had developed a certain rapport with his students.

“It’s called lighting a fire instead of filling a bucket,” Dr. Walker said, quoting famous Irish poet William Butler Yeats. “I like to think that my students and I are exploring the subject and learning about the subject in the sense that they are getting excited to go out and fill in the facts themselves.”

At UNLV, ecology is lumped in with biology and biotechnology as part of the School of Life Sciences; which, with 27 full-time faculty members and more than 1, 500 undergraduates, is one of the largest schools at the university. While the subjects of biology and ecology are often thought of as the same subject, Dr. Walker explained that the two subjects are actually quite unique.

“Biology is the study of all living things,” Dr. Walker says. “Ecology is the study of the relationship of organisms to their environment.”

Ecology is actually a massive subject in and of itself. Dr. Walker is a plant ecologist, but he says there are many different types of ecology scholars, and that the ecology professors at UNLV only account for a fraction of that large group.

So while the nightlife in Las Vegas may be what draws tourists to the city, there is also the UNLV School of Life Sciences right down the road. For students interested in science and the study of ecology, Dr. Walker thinks UNLV might be worth checking out.

“We have some dynamic, world-class intellects,” Dr. Walker says. “And if you are looking for good advisors, good teachers, good undergraduates, and good grad students, then do look into our website.”

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