T. Mark Olsen Associate Teaching Professor

Biology Education
T. Mark Olsen

Academic Interests:

Science is by its very nature forever dynamic; new discoveries are constantly being made and previous conclusions modified in the wake of these findings. Therefore, I challenge my students to think critically, formulate and test hypotheses and engage fully as individuals and collaborative research teams in problem solving, discovery and critical analysis. Pedagogy such as placed-based education and investigative team research encourages active, reflective and collaborative learning for my science majors and non-majors.

Because many of my students are First Year Science Major Intents, I strive to develop the skillsets, mindset and connections with upper class science students to foster my students’ integration into Notre Dame’s scientific community. I ardently campaign for early participation in the watershed opportunity of genuine undergraduate research. To this end, I coordinate an annual internship information event during which undergraduate research interns share their personal motivations, internship experiences and advice on types of internships available, search and application logistics.

Most recently, I have engaged hundreds of my students in an authentic undergraduate research experience using a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) model in partnership with the research laboratory of Dr Jason McLachlan.  Students conduct a multifaceted, semester-long research project to investigate the dynamic evolutionary responses of a foundational Atlantic salt marsh species, the sedge Schoenoplectus americanus, to environmental change.  Our students’ research findings contribute directly to departmental research efforts.  



  • Edmund Joyce, CSC Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching 2018
  • Concurrent Associate Professional Specialist, First Year of Studies, 2015-2018
  • Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award 2001
  • Associate Teaching Professor 2000-Present
  • Academic Co-Director, Summer Scholars Program, Life Science 2000-Present
  • Assistant Teaching Professor 1994-2000
  • Ph.D. Comparative Physiology and Biochemistry, University of Notre Dame 1994
  • M.S. Ecology, University of Notre Dame 1989
  • Interpretive Naturalist, New York Department of Environmental Conservation 1984-1986
  • A.B. Biology, Summa cum Laude, St. Michael’s College 1981
  • Research Intern, DOE Argonne National Laboratory 1980


Selected Professional Activities:

  • National Science Foundation STEP Grant Recipient
  • Hoosier Environmental Council Place-Based Educator
  • National Science Bowl Writer/Reviewer
  • NASA Climate Change Educational Initiative Grant Reviewer
  • Notre Dame Fly Fishing and Angling Club Advisor
  • Notre Dame Multicultural Programs Mentor
  • Sustainability Minor Capstone Mentor
  • Undergraduate Research Internship Information Night Founder and Coordinator
  • TPAC Teaching Faculty Executive Committee Member