Scott E. Gold, born in Los Angeles, CA, received a B.S. degree in biology from California State University, Los Angeles (1982); his M.S. degree in plant pathology from the University of Arizona (1983), and a Ph.D. in plant pathology from the University of California, Riverside (1990). Currently, Gold serves as professor of plant pathology at the University of Georgia (UGA).
Gold has developed a diverse teaching effort in fungal biology and biotechnology at UGA. His current teaching includes a graduate course on fungal genetics, an upper division undergraduate science elective course on fungi, and an intensive biotechnology laboratory course. Attendance in Gold’s classes average 250–300 students per year. In each of these courses, he utilizes plant-pathogenic fungi as interesting and relevant examples to convey biological principles. For example, as part of the Biotechnology Laboratory course, Gold developed the use of the corn smut pathogen and more recently Verticillium dahliae as tools to involve students in original research on functional genomics in fungi. This effort is a creative combination of introducing students to a rapid robust gene deletion construction method (DelsGate or OSCAR) developed in his lab with genome sequence analysis methodologies. The robust nature of the DelsGate and OSCAR deletion systems assures a high rate of success by students, which is an important motivational factor, and the quick reward encourages students to become more engaged. To facilitate the success of this approach, students are each randomly provided a unique gene of interest that has tentatively been identified in Gold and colleagues’ research laboratories. Students retrieve the sequence of their gene from the genome database and design primers to amplify the gene flanks, and then carry out the PCR and cloning steps to generate their deletion construct. Additionally, they generate hypotheses related to the potential function of their genes and predicted mutant phenotypes based on those hypotheses. They also learn to use a series of computer-based tools for gene manipulation. Finally, as time allows, they produce deletion mutants in the fungus and observe phenotypes. Students submit a draft and final report on their gene, their hypotheses, and their research results. These reports function as part of a written record for the analysis of each gene. Four undergraduates have been authors on Gold lab research publications.
In the undergraduate lecture course that Gold teaches, Fungi: Friends and Foes (FFF), he introduces students to topics and concepts in plant pathology, ranging from the potato famine and chestnut blight to mycotoxins and fungicides and finally to corn smut tasting. This is an opportunity to stimulate student interest in plant pathology and there is frequent recruitment from the course to other plant pathology courses offered by the Department of Plant Pathology. In FFF, Gold has adopted varied methods to keep students engaged and heighten their learning experience. He employs reading assignments that show the big picture and then focus specifically on particular species as a way to expose students to the magnificent variation that leads to the general concepts in the fungi. He has spliced into lectures many video clips to demonstrate concepts and lighten the intensity of heavy content sections. Web-based quizzes are used to keep student studies on track. He assigns a research paper to encourage students to dig into a specific topic on fungi that is in their particular interest area. A reference librarian is invited to class and demonstrates the many amazing computer-based literature research tools available to UGA students. The paper involves the use of at least one peer-reviewed research article as a way to expose students to the primary driver of scientific progress. With the large number of students in the class, these papers also provide Gold with new information useful in future offerings. In-class mushroom identification, a field trip to a local brewery, optional mushroom hunting forays, and a tasting day enhance the course. For many students, the tasting day is their first experience with many of the cultivated edible species as well as fungal cheeses.
In his graduate course, in addition to genetic concepts with plant pathogenic fungi, Gold often focuses on examples of recent primary literature from plant pathology for group discussions. Gold has made a strong effort to become an effective teacher. Between his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees, he taught science in LA public schools. At UGA, he has taken advantage of opportunities to improve his teaching. He was a UGA Lilly Teaching Fellow early in his career and was recognized as a UGA Outstanding Teaching Faculty. Recently, he was inducted into the UGA Teaching Academy, an interactive group by invitation, dedicated to the improvement of teaching at the university. In addition to classroom instruction, Gold has also served as a mentor for more than 40 undergraduates in directed research in his laboratory as well as seven high-school students. He also served as departmental graduate coordinator from 2004 to 2008 and on the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Graduate Affairs and Curriculum Committee. Gold has given several talks in education sessions at professional meetings, including an invited talk at the 25th Fungal Genetics Conference in 2009. He received successive competitive grant funding for his biotechnology lab class project through the NSF-PRISM program at UGA and participated in several meetings with the PRISM group. He is a member of the Georgia Mushroom Club and recently gave an invited lecture to the club on mushroom development. Student evaluations have consistently been favorable for the efforts of Gold in the classroom over the last 15 years. In addition to high numerical ratings on content and approach to teaching, Gold is noted for clearly being a caring, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic teacher, providing students an opportunity to have an intense academic experience under a low-stress, welcoming, and motivating environment. Although Gold has excellent ratings, he continues to strive to improve his teaching capabilities to provide students with the best possible learning opportunities. He recently underwent an intense voluntary peer review of teaching by three senior faculty members of teaching renown. In addition, his involvement with the Teaching Academy at UGA will help him to continue to pursue pedagogical improvements.