An anatomy adventure in Paris

While on a family trip to France in the summer of 2017, I discovered the Gallery of Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy in the Jardins des Plantes of Paris. Part of France’s National Museum of Natural History, it is a hanger-like building, crammed with over 1,000 reconstructed animal skeletons, and lined with cabinets of preserved soft tissue specimens. Jars of brains, stomachs, and other viscera were arranged to allow the ready comparison of anatomical features. Although I’m a clinical anatomist, it was difficult to tear myself away from this comparative anatomy.  Of the seven days we spent in Paris, I devoted two days to the exhibits, and still was able to absorb only a small fraction of them. Not only was the space beautiful and awe-inspiring, but the weight of history was palpable. After all, much of this collection was assembled and studied by Cuvier himself. Needless to say, I was in anatomy heaven!

Georges Cuvier is considered by some to be the “father of paleontology”. His work as a comparative anatomist eventually led to the acceptance of extinction as a phenomenon.  Due to religious doctrine, there was quite a bit of resistance to the idea that some animals were no longer found on Earth, and (the story goes) that Cuvier’s detailed analysis of mammoth and elephant mandibles definitively proved that elephants weren’t simply evolved mammoths.  I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised, and perhaps personally validated by the importance that anatomy knowledge and careful observation played in Cuvier’s success story. As someone who is deeply interested in the study of anatomy, I like to stress to my students that the analysis of form can provide a wealth of knowledge, and Cuvier’s evidence which helped lead to academic acceptance of extinction is an example I have used to illustrate this.



The Hall of Comparative Anatomy and Paleontology is easy to find within the National Museum. It is located in the Fifth Arrondisement with easy access from the Jussieu metro stop.  The building was constructed in preparation for the 1900 world fair, and has lovely architectural details, but insufficient air conditioning! If you plan to visit in the summer like I did, be sure to go as early as possible, as the heat can be stifling. In fact, the Hall of Paleontology on the second floor is often closed for excessive heat!  If you find yourself in Paris, be sure to carve out some time to explore this delightful museum.

Melissa Clouse received her Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Berea College (Berea, KY) and spent five years as an officer in the United States Air Force, in a career field that had absolutely nothing to do with biology.  She received her Master’s of Science in Clinical Anatomy from Creighton University (Omaha, NE) and spent five years conducting research in the characteristics of intranasal prion infection. She is now an instructor and advisor at Doane University (Crete, NE), where she teaches human anatomy and cadaver dissection and serves as the Director of Pre-Health Programs.


Come be inspired at a HAPS Meeting!

My first Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) conference was in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2017. I was excited and nervous to attend because I had no idea what to expect when a group of anatomy and physiology professors came together. Accustomed to scientific meetings where there is cutthroat competition among attendees, I found this meeting refreshing because while there was the usual exchange of data, questions, and ideas, the general atmosphere was one of friendliness, openness, encouragement, and excitement. The most moving component was the love of teaching exuded by each member of HAPS. As I moved through the meeting and listened to my colleagues, I noticed the easy banter among them. Even when they discussed hardships, a general sense of camaraderie and heartfelt encouragement was palpable. The HAPS meeting that year focused on The Evolutionary and Developmental Bases of Human Anatomy and Physiology. As I sat engaged by the update speakers, I was struck by the comparison between the daily struggles we all face as professors and the evolutionary struggles of our ancestors. I realize that sometimes it’s hard to get out of our comfort zones and do all the extra stuff (asking for funding, scrounging for money, figuring out what to present at workshops, etc.) to get ourselves to be at a meeting, but I encourage you to take the time to venture into being a first, second or old timer at HAPS. Come walk among a most special breed of Homo sapiens: The HAPSters.

Hope to see you in Portland!

P.S. It’s not too late to make it to a Fall Regional Meeting near you!

Fall 2018:
Eastern Regional Meeting – Columbia, MD – October 13, 2018
Western Regional Meeting – Kentfield, CA – October 20, 2018

Spring 2019:
Southern Regional Meeting – Louisville, KY – March 30, 2019

Fall 2019:
Central Regional Meeting – Kingston, ON – August 10, 2019
Eastern Regional Meeting – Utica, NY – November 2, 2019


Bridgit Goldman has been teaching college-level biology since 1998.  She has a Ph.D. in Cellular, Molecular, and Developmental Biology from The Graduate School and University Center of The City University of New York. Since 2007 she has designed, developed and taught all the lecture and laboratory classes in Human Anatomy and Physiology at Siena College in Loudonville, NY.


Dissecting and Drawing the Forearm: Anatomical Illustration for the Classroom


Flexor Compartment of Distal Forearm layer 3
Flexor Compartment of Distal Forearm layer 3

The human hand is challenging to study, due to having many narrow vessels and tendons packed together in a small space. Because of this, it is useful to have clear diagrams showing just a few structures at a time. From February to mid-March 2017, a human distal forearm was dissected and used as a model for six drawings in the style of a traditional anatomical atlas. These images are meant to be teaching tools for helping students identify structures, just like a professionally made atlas. During the dissection process, rough pencil sketches were made in the lab as new structures were exposed. Later, these sketches were redrawn in full color with colored pencil. Anatomical illustration could be an educational activity for students: by trying to draw diagrams clear enough for others to understand, students would retain more information and improve their communication skills.


In Dr. Olson’s basic gross anatomy course at NIU, the undergraduates often use atlases to help identify countless tiny structures. These atlases introduce students to the art of anatomical illustration, which has roots as far back as the Renaissance. The hand is an ideal subject for an atlas because it has so many tendons, vessels, and bones that can be difficult to keep track of, so it would be helpful to have clear diagrams of these parts. The hand is also more “relatable” relative to internal organs; hands are frequently used for nonverbal communication. People depend on their hands to do so many tasks everyday but rarely think about what goes on behind the scenes.

To separate the forearm from the cadaver, Dr. Olson steadied the body while I sawed (with an actual hand saw) through the radius and ulna distal to the elbow. I used a scalpel to cut a vertical slit in the skin along the anterior side of the arm, from the wrist to the bottom. Then I cut a horizontal line along the wrist and pulled back two flaps of skin to expose the flexors. With a scalpel and forceps, I removed fascia and fat from each muscle and vessel to see the structures more clearly. I made a pencil sketch of the flexors and used the Thieme Atlas of Anatomy 2nd edition to try to identify the structures myself. Then I checked my answers with Dr. Olson. For the next few weeks, I repeated this process of dissecting more structures, sketching the muscles, and labeling the drawings with help from Dr. Olson and TA Sally Jo Detloff. I was generally able to dissect tissues without damaging them, although I accidentally cut the ulnar nerve and had to tie it together with string. Between dissections, I sprayed the arm with humectant and wrapped it in terry cloth to retain moisture.


The first drawing was of foot bones.

When I had finished dissecting most of the arm and hand, I had a set of rough draft sketches to turn into final drafts. I redrew each drawing on larger paper and colored the new drawings with colored pencils. To make digital versions of the diagrams, I scanned the drawings and used the GNU Image Manipulation Program to fix margins and erase blemishes. Finally, I presented my work at NIU, at both the Phi Sigma Research Symposium and at the Undergraduate Research and Artistry Day poster shows. I enjoyed teaching the attendees everything I had learned about how the arm works. At URAD, my project won second place out of fourteen exhibits (NIU “URAD and CES Winners Announced.”)


Before starting the atlas project, I had never made scientific illustrations and had not taken any illustration courses at NIU. My artistic education was mainly from drawing for fun and taking public school art classes prior to college. Other than confirming the labels with Dr. Olson, I worked on the atlas diagrams independently.

I used photos taken in the lab as references for my color palette, which was meant to be realistic but still simple to understand. Hence, the atlas colors were bolder and more diverse than in the actual arm, where arteries and vessels were the same colors and everything turned more orange over time. The nails were colored to match the cadaver’s nails, which were, in fact, dark magenta. See the final Forearm Atlas diagrams: Flexor Compartment Layers 1-3, Flexors in the Palm, Extensor Compartment Layer 1, and Lateral View: Extensors.

One of the first atlas quality drawings.


Other students could benefit from drawing their own diagrams of their dissections. Doing so would help them memorize the names, locations and relationships between structures. While drawing, students might come up with deeper questions about how the body works, like I did during my project. Students could trade drawings and give each other feedback about the clarity of the diagrams. Students would be reminded to focus their critiques on legibility and accuracy rather than on aesthetic appeal. By making their diagrams understandable to others, students would improve at teaching and communicating. Ideally, they would also have fun improving their drawing skills.

Thank you to HAPS for the Student Grant, and thanks to NIU’s Office of Student Engagement for providing me a grant from the Student Engagement Fund. This project was supported by the Body Donation Program at Northern Illinois University, supervised by Dr. Daniel Olson, Director of the Anatomy Laboratory, which ensured the proper and respectful handling and disposal of the tissues used in this project.

Literature Cited

NIU. “URAD and CES Winners Announced.” NIU Today, 26 Apr. 2017, Retrieved from

Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning. “URAD Program 2017.” Northern Illinois University, 2017, Retrieved from

Schuenke, Michael, et al. Atlas of Anatomy. Second ed., New York, New York, Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc., 2012.

Eliya Baker graduated from Northern Illinois University with a B.S. in Premed Biology and minors in Psychology and Chemistry. She is not formally trained in art, but enjoys making art as a hobby.  Her teacher and lab instructor is Dr. Daniel R. Olson Ed.D., the Director of the Anatomy Laboratory at NIU. 

Would you be ready?

Imagine that while preparing those last few materials for the start of the semester you receive a call from Disability Support Services indicating that you will have a student with total blindness in your A&P class. The semester begins in two days.

Would you be ready?

To be accessible for students with disabilities, here are some things you can address:

  • PowerPoint slides need to have high contrast between the background and font colors. The reading order of each slide must be verified, and font sizes should be at least 24 point. Additionally, all visuals must have Alternative Text (aka Alt Text or Alt Tags). Alternative Text is a description that enables an individual with a visual impairment to learn what a sighted person would learn from the image. However, they should not be so detailed as to further increase the amount of time the student would need to acquire the information. Alt Tags for STEM images may require two parts.
  • Word documents must be written in a sans-serif font and be organized with headers. Tables require a repeating header and an Alt Tag. Further, because screen readers pronounce non-printing characters, the document shouldn’t have unnecessary spaces or tabs. If you don’t know what it sounds like to hear text verbalized by a screen reader, listen to Accessible vs. Inaccessible.
  • The physical laboratory space must accommodate students with disabilities, and there must be accessible versions of the lab materials and equipment. Institutions should have policies regarding guide dogs and students requiring wheelchairs and scooters in the science laboratory. A discussion on preparing for students with disabilities in the science lab would require a separate blog post. In the meantime, my website has a link to a study I conducted in 2016 evaluating accommodations provided for students with visual impairments in college biology laboratories. It contains information on accommodations for science labs, and those which study participants found helpful and not so helpful.
  • Textbooks are another consideration. Publishers are working toward full accessibility, but there’s a lot of work yet to be done. Check with the publisher about your textbook’s accessibility. Ask a lot of questions. Some publishers honestly believe they have accessible versions of their texts, when in fact they do not.

Several resources exist to help create accessible course materials. I maintain a website, Accessible Science, that has numerous resources on accessibility and other information you may find useful. Newer versions of Microsoft® Office have built-in accessibility checkers, PC Accessibility Checker and Mac Accessibility Checker, that scan for accessibility issues and indicate how to fix any problems they identify. PowerPoint Accessibility and Screen Reader Accessibility in Word demonstrate how to create accessible PowerPoint slides and documents.

New courses should be developed according to the tenets of Universal Instructional Design (UID), which recommends that accessibility be integrated into courses as they are developed. Adhering to the principles of UID helps students even if you never have a student with a disability in your class. Foreign language students benefit from subtitles on videos, for example, and larger font sizes on PowerPoint slides benefit students seated farther from the screen.

For existing courses, it takes an incredible amount of time to retrofit a laboratory science class so that it is fully accessible. Since increasing numbers of students with disabilities are attending college, my suggestion is to start preparing now so you don’t panic when you get that call. Feel free to email me if I can help.


Dr. Barbara R. Heard is an associate professor of biology at a community college in NJ. She is interested in supporting students with disabilities in science, especially students with visual disabilities.

Pre-Med Summer Camp for Middle Schoolers… Third Time is the Charm!

Dani 3

For the last three summers, I have been developing and hosting a summer camp for middle school kids about medicine. They are doctors for the week, solving medical mysteries, learning about diseases, and diagnosing patients, all while learning basic anatomy and physiology. Many of the activities that I created for the kids are watered down (or not so watered down) versions of the lab activities our undergraduate students do. So far, we have concluded that the kids LOVE it, and it is only getting better with time.

The first time I ran this camp it was a bit… chaotic behind the scenes. The second time was a little less so, and this third time was smooth sailing. If I could write a letter to myself three years ago, there would be some important pieces of advice I would want to know. Since time travel is still ahead of us I thought I would share these little pieces of wisdom. Hopefully I can help someone out there in the HAPS universe that is thinking of starting a camp for kids!

Dani 2

First, do not underestimate how excited the kids are to be in this camp. There is very little you could do to squish that enthusiasm out of them! So do not feel that you need to razzle dazzle them with these huge experiments for each activity. One simple activity I designed is called “Making Poop.” Campers use saltine crackers, a plastic sandwich bag, and different colored water (the digestive enzymes!) to act out how your body digests and breaks down food. At the end,  we have poop! Very basic, and the overall cost is pennies per camper. I designed this activity for our smallest campers, those entering 5thgrade in the new year. The older campers got much more advanced activities that had them working with real biomolecules, chemicals, and enzymes to learn how starch, lipids, and proteins are broken down. I heard such a fuss at the end of the day because my older campers (those entering 7thand 8thgrade) did not get to “make poop”.

Second, organization is key. During the first summer, my office looked like a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and a paper supply store! It was a nightmare. This year I used big brown envelopes from our department’s mail room to sort and organize all the handouts that I had created for the campers. Then, each handout envelope was placed in the large plastic tub that stored the materials for each day’s activities. Taking the time a few days to a week before camp and sorting the materials and handouts by the day made things so simple.

Dani 1

Last, science is an explorative field, and to truly appreciate this can take time. Rushing the kids through a dozen activities may feel like they are getting a lot out of the day, but watching them take their time on fewer activities and uncovering their interests is far better. I want to help them develop that curiosity for science and the bits and pieces going on inside of their own bodies. The bonus is that you don’t have to write a dozen activities for each day, so that’s a win-win.

You can check out the YouTube video of this year’s camp here:



Dani Waters is a first year PhD student in Educational Psychology at Penn State University. She has a M.S. in Biology where she focused on anatomy and physiology content. Dani teaches Human Anatomy and Physiology at Penn State University.

HAPS blog: Behind the scenes

We skipped introductions to bring you a fun pre-semester challenge last week, but there are some new faces running the HAPS Communication Committee and blog.

Up first, Communications Committee Chair, Melissa Clouse:


Hello all!  I would like to beg a few minutes of your time to briefly introduce myself.  My name is Melissa Clouse and I am an Instructor of Practice and the Director of Pre-Health Programs at Doane University, located in Crete, Nebraska.  I have been a HAPS member for about two years, and am continually blown away by this amazing group of educators.  I jumped at the opportunity to get involved in the Communications Committee at my first HAPS conference (in Salt Lake City).  Following my introduction to the HAPS community I couldn’t believe that there were so many people interested in exactly the same things I thought were fascinating… I almost couldn’t resist finding a way to provide some time and energy to the organization.

Recently, I was asked to step into the ComCom Chair position.  Although I’m a bit daunted to attempt to follow the exceptional leadership of Wendy Riggs, I know firsthand how supportive our members are so I am confident that we can continue ComCom’s great work.  I thrilled that I will continue to work closely with Wendy as she steps into the Secretary role.  I’m looking forward to learning more about the inner workings of HAPS….it’s an organization that makes my teaching and professional life better in so many ways, and I especially look forward to working with respected fellow HAPSters.

Up next, blog master, Ann Raddant:


Howdy, HAPSters! I’ll be soliciting posts and working with our fabulous crew of editors to keep the blog looking fresh all year. I joined HAPS in 2013 when I was still a Ph.D. student, and I have found my membership to be so valuable through every step of my career. My day job is lecturing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (Go Panthers!) and my night and weekend job is my 1.5 year old son, Hudson. I am excited to be able to contribute to an organization that helps me better a better instructor in so many ways.

Do you want to see yourself and your ideas on the HAPS blog? IT’S SO EASY!!  We need posts that are 200-500 word, preferably with pictures (and captions), a short author bio and picture.  Then, just email your submission to  We will take care of the rest, and you will bask in the warmth that can only come by sharing your experiences/wisdom/tips/ideas with like-minded HAPSters!!




Starting on a high note: a first-week-of-fall A&P challenge

I’ll admit it: I’m a bit of an oddball.

To many A&P instructors, music is a tool for learning about the auditory system (Ganesh et al. 2016) or adjusting students’ moods (Anyanwu 2015, Modell et al. 2009, Weinhaus & Massey 2015), or a metaphor for the learning process (Modell 2018).  These are valid, reasonable ideas.  But for me, odd duck that I am, music is mostly a mechanism for teaching science content.  If you can imagine a version of Schoolhouse Rock with really short songs written and performed by amateurs for undergraduate audiences (Crowther et al. 2015), you have the general idea.

There are many reasons why I do this, some well-rooted in research and others less so.  Content-rich lyrics can condense some material into concise, memorable phrases.  Such lyrics can be interrogated to make their meaning clearer, somewhat in the manner of an English class dissecting a poem.  And singing about content with your students is a good way to convey that you care deeply about their mastery of it, and that scientists are human beings too.

STEM Biology Gregory Crowther

If any of these ideas resonate with you, consider the following a friendly challenge for the fall. Are you ready?

  1. Identify and write down the 1-5 most important overall themes that you will emphasize in your course.
  2. Write a short song or rap introducing your students to those themes. If you are not musically inclined — or even if you are — collaborate with a spouse, colleague, previous student, or me to create the best piece that you can. (Here is an example of such a song:
  3. Perform it live for or with your students on the first day of class.
  4. Facilitate a class discussion of what the lyrics mean. (Sample study questions for the song mentioned above are listed toward the bottom of the web page listed above.)
  5. Leave a comment to let me know how this went for you!
  6. Revisit your song at the end of the fall for further reinforcement and reflection.

What about those of you in the “silent majority” who are not quite ready to serenade your students, but are curious about this form of teaching and learning?  Well, consider attending VOICES ( on Sept. 26.  It’s a one-day online conference devoted entirely to teaching STEM subjects via songs.  And it only costs $10!  Is that music to your ears, or what?



E.G. Anyanwu (2015). Background music in the dissection laboratory: impact on stress associated with the dissection experience. Advances in Physiology Education39(2): 96-101.

G.J. Crowther, K. Davis, L.D. Jenkins, and J.L. Breckler (2015).  Integration of math jingles into physiology courses.  Journal of Mathematics Education8(2): 56-73.

G. Ganesh, V.S. Srinivasan, and S. Krishnamurthi (2016). A model to demonstrate the place theory of hearing. Advances in Physiology Education40(2): 191-193.

H.I. Modell, F.G. DeMiero, and L. Rose (2009).  In pursuit of a holistic learning environment: the impact of music on the medical physiology classroom.  Advances in Physiology Education33(1): 37-45.

H. Modell (2018). Jazz as a model for classroom practice. HAPS Educator22(2): 165-170.

A.J. Weinhaus and J.S Massey (2015).  Pre-lecture reviews with anatomy tunes.  HAPS Educator19(3): 35-38.


Dr. Greg Crowther teaches anatomy and physiology at Everett Community College (WA).  His peer-reviewed articles on enhancing learning with content-rich music have collectively been cited over 100 times.