Alumni David Weisenbeck delivers first lecture of MSA series


Imani Saya David Weisenbeck sets up his presentation on Dec. 18, 2018 in the schola.

Math and Science Academy graduate and current JMU sophomore, David Weisenbeck, delivered the first lecture in the MSA lecture series. The lecture consisted of his initial interests in the field of Herpetology, research studies with amphibians and reptiles, and stories of his life experiences.

Although his senior project focused on amphibians and stemmed from an interaction with a ranger at a state park, Weisenbeck claimed he always had a fascination with amphibians long before his high school days.

“I’ve kind of always been interested with amphibians and reptiles, so it was kind of just getting that research focus, which was really cool. In high school, is when I thought about these animals in more of a research context,” said Weisenbeck.

Weisenbeck, who now attends James Madison University, majors in Biology with an Ecology and Environmental concentration and minors in Geography, has researched the field of Herpetology, particularly on a research trip in Borneo.

The trip consisted of researching frog diversity, developing inventory, and preserving specimen. For ten days, Weisenbeck spent time at Lanjak Entimau Wildlife Sanctuary capturing and researching frogs with locals. For another two weeks, he explored Sabah, a northern state in the island of Borneo.

“There was so much cool biodiversity in Borneo. I would probably say that my favorite experience there was finding the reticulated python; it was the coolest thing ever,” said Weisenbeck.

The alum also shed light on what classes in high school paved his successful route into college.

“Definitely AP Biology. It allowed me to go straight to Ecology, without the Introductory Biology courses,” said Weisenbeck. “It also allowed me to take Herpetology my freshman year, which was really great.”

Academy adviser Allison Graves gushed about the journey of Weisenbeck’s senior project.

“He was always in charge of his work. For his senior project, he came up with his own idea, just networking with the ranger, he reached out to the JMU professor,” said Graves. “I was just really impressed with his self advocacy and ability to pursue his goals with very little guidance.”

Graves also noticed a slight difference in his presentation style from his senior year.

“He was relaxed. When he was a senior, he was not nervous, but he was certainly not as relaxed. He had clearly done this a time or two,” Graves praised.

Among the various students in the schola sat Weisenbeck’s dad and AP Human Geography teacher, Robert Weisenbeck, who also praised his delivery at the lecture.

“He seemed like a natural; I could see him as a college professor because he definitely knows his material and is passionate about it,” said Weisenbeck.