Joann Otto, a former East County resident and daughter of the late Sen. Glenn Otto and Helen Otto, has become one of 40 scientists tasked with changing how life sciences are taught.

Otto is a professor and chairwoman of the biology department at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., and specializes in cell biology.

The Partnership for Undergraduate Life Sciences Education program named her as one of 40 Vision and Change Leadership Fellows, who are charged with a yearlong project to study and recommend changes to how biology is taught, how academic departments support faculty, and how curricular decisions are made to accommodate 21st-century education.

The 40 post-secondary life sciences faculty members were competitively selected from 250 applicants for their experience with reforms in undergraduate biology education, according to a news release.

They come from 24 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and represent research universities, liberal arts colleges, comprehensive/regional universities, and two-year colleges.

The PULSE program is a joint initiative of the National Science Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the National Institutes of Health.

Other life scientists and professors are invited to help with the project. Visit for information.

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