Faculty Spotlight: Jaclyn Madden

Associate Professor of Biology & Biotechnology Jaclyn Madden says, "These days it's incredibly important for [students] to take information, sort it from the good and the bad and make their own informed decision."


The key to a good first impression is to present yourself in the best light and Harford shines brightly with Associate Professor of Biology & Biotechnology, Jaclyn Madden – one of the first instructors our Biology students encounter when they begin their academic journey at Harford. As lead faculty for the General Biology courses, her classes are a gateway for bio majors as well as many other degree programs, giving her the opportunity to be that all-important early influence on a wide variety of students. Beginning as an adjunct professor in Harford’s STEM division in 2010, Jackie’s continued to have a long-standing impact on students, teaching courses ranging from Biology for Health Professionals, Foundations of Biotechnology, Laboratory Methods for Biotechnology, Introduction to Research Methods, and General Biology.


Jackie has taken the lead in developing and updating the General Biology course over the last few years as well as authoring custom lab manuals for both the General Biology and Biology for Health Professionals. She’s also responsible for developing HCC’s Biotechnology program, expanding the curriculum while developing the AAS degree program while promoting the program throughout the industry and other educational institutions. Recently, Jackie was instrumental in securing funding for the Biotech program with a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) grant, BIOTEC Pathways:  Expanding Pathways from High School into the Biotechnology Workforce in the amount of $493,912. This funding will help build interest and opportunities in biotechnology through community outreach activities with high school students and their families, as well as establish a direct pathway for Harford County Public School students to progress through Harford’s AAS degree in biotechnology to a career in industry or further education in the field. As head of the BIOTEC Pathways team, Jackie collaborates with a network of faculty and scientists from across the region. The grant will also provide much needed state-of-the-art equipment to enhance labs and classrooms. With the recent amplification of Biotech careers seen across Maryland, Jackie has her sights set on building this program to its fullest potential.


Continuing her pursuit for opportunities for all students, she served as Program Coordinator for Harford’s subaward for the Washington Baltimore Hampton Roads Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (WBHR-LSAMP) program, which funded scholarships and opened up connections for minority students to begin a career in science by providing experience in active research. She was instrumental in recruiting and selecting students to the scholarship program while developing and administering a budget, implementing program activities, and mentoring the students. As coordinator, her decision-making ensured compliance with the administrators of the grant as well as all NSF requirements. 


Building on her grant experience, Jackie served as co-principal investigator for Harford’s NSF S-STEM grant, where she assisted in writing the grant proposal and in the development and implementation of program materials and activities, including a winter retreat for S-STEM and LSAMP Scholars. Jackie has also carried forward additional grants along with fellow faculty members for the Biology program, including a Phenology and DNA Barcoding grant through the HCC Foundation that maps the species and genetic diversity of the trees on HCC’s campus. This allowed Harford to gain status as an arboretum, subsequently earning the College a Gold PLANT award from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Jackie also worked jointly on the HCC Gone Wild grant that enhances wildlife habitats throughout campus while building environmental science and education programs for students.


She is an active member of numerous networks for her discipline. As a member of the American Society for Microbiology, she recently served as Program Committee Chair for their Conference for Undergraduate Educators. Jackie is also senior personnel for the NSF-funded Ethics Network for Course-Based Opportunities in Undergraduate Research (ENCOUR), a national network of Biology faculty in which she also participates as a mentor. Frequently writing scholarly presentations, she stays at the forefront of her field of study.


Jackie has been a member of numerous committees and initiatives at HCC as well. Part of the College’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) committee, her best practices for classroom management and teaching and learning expertise are regularly shared with Harford faculty. Happy to share her knowledge, she mentors both new and adjunct faculty. She assisted with the development of HCC STEM Day, a popular one-day event on campus bringing together interested community members, students, and faculty for STEM presentations by our students and faculty. Jackie also serves as faculty advisor for the student organization Biological Outreach Initiative. As the recipient of a NISOD Excellence Award in 2018, she was recognized for her extraordinary work on our campus.


Just as Biotechnology uses biology as its core to solve problems and make useful products, Jackie is a problem-solver in the classroom. She tells a story of a recently challenging year where a yearlong lab kit for her students didn’t arrive in time for her lessons. She ultimately did what she’s known for and turned things around, creating an exciting curriculum from her wealth of knowledge, turning what could’ve been an unfulfilling lab experience into an exciting and eye-opening year for her students. As a joke, these students began using the motto “I feel sciencey” when they set out to work. This has become her rallying cry when she meets new STEM students. Her goal is to make them “feel sciencey” – to become passionate about science and become scientifically literate. “My hope is they find one new thing that excites them about biology. These days it’s incredibly important for them to take information, sort it from the good and the bad and make their own informed decision.” Jackie appreciates the uniqueness and variety of students at Harford; she sees their challenges and all their hard work, and they inspire her.


“I view each of my classes as an individual class. The personality, needs, interests and backgrounds are all unique each semester, every time. It keeps things exciting, never the same, and I tailor my instruction for each of those classes,” says Madden. She also takes time in her lessons to focus on basic study skills, providing tips on how to grow as a student, understanding that most of her students are new to the college experience. She’s passionate about guiding students to a potential STEM career path by providing insights into the field through internships, college transfers, research projects, and presentations. Often, she puts forth opportunities for stellar STEM students to speak or present their independent research during area conferences, providing an experience of a lifetime. As a faculty representative for the My College Success Network, she takes great pride in mentoring and serving as a point of contact and advocate for this unique group of students.


Jackie does take time for herself when she can; she has a passion for all kinds of music. She loves to sing and had a past role as a cantor in a choir at her church. She enjoys painting, photography, and gives crafts a whirl with her young son. Her favorite pastime during the COVID-19 pandemic? Bird watching. Becoming a bit of an amateur bird watcher, she’s set up birdhouses and researches the variety of birds that visit, even creating a “finch watch” series via her Twitter account. Jackie is also active in our local community as the co-chair of the Science and Social Studies Fair at Fountain Green Elementary School and parent volunteer for Cub Scouts Pack 800, creating STEM sessions for the group.


It’s not just that first impression our students receive with Jackie, they’re given her commitment and dedication; it’s overwhelmingly evident not only through her endeavors described here but also through the success of her students. Her students reflect very positively on their experience in her courses and they’re so grateful for the support she provides them. She brings many intangibles along with her expertise to Harford’s STEM division and has become a standout faculty member. Harford is proud to highlight Associate Professor Jackie Madden.