Richard McLaughlin

Richard McLaughlin
What I like about the lab is that it is hands-on, and I think we are all hands-on learners.

Award-winning instructor known internationally for work with rare porpoise

Brings expertise into the classroom for students

Gateway instructor Richard McLaughlin is an educator known internationally for his research and teaching skills.

Scientists abroad have recognized and tapped into that knowledge and those skills to help with the recovery of the extremely rare Yangtze Finless Porpoise in China.

McLaughin, in turn, has applied his skills and knowledge to his classroom at Gateway to put real-world insight and training into the natural science courses he teaches there.

His work with students has been so exemplary that he’s been honored locally with the President’s Excellence Award and nationally as a National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development Excellence Award winner.

One of McLaughlin’s strengths as an educator is a commitment to connecting concepts taught in lecture and in books with learning experiences in the lab. Nine in 10 of McLaughlin’s students are typically enrolled in the college’s Nursing program.

“What I like about the lab is that it is hands-on, and I think we are all hands-on learners,” says McLaughlin. “I think it’s great to learn different techniques in the lab, and it’s a place where I reinforce the material from the lecture. 

“When I am talking about it in the lecture, I say, ‘Remember how you did this in the lab?’ It’s a great way for students to learn, and that’s why I believe in the labs.”

McLaughlin holds a PhD in microbiology and has taught at Gateway for more than a decade. He says the strength of technical education is that programs are geared toward providing students with the training and knowledge to enter a career.

“There will be a job when they complete their program. That’s what we are centered around. At a four-year college, you might be able to get a PhD in a specific subject, but your job prospects when you graduate may be slim to nil.”

In addition to lab work, McLaughlin also feels learning the research process is important for students, a process he’s participated in for the recovery of the porpoise. 

“It’s really neat to be able to do this because not many people know about the porpoise, and not many people even in China know about it,” says McLaughlin. “I am very fortunate to be able to work with this very rare species, to be able to make a difference for this animal.

“I talk to the class about the research that’s been done in China … There’s DNA sequencing that’s done for the porpoise, and it’s all computerized. I’ve been able to take the results back to the United States and worked with some students in the Provost Honors program to analyze the results more fully. We’ve been able to publish two papers together.”