Find this University professor either in LSC teaching a class or on the elliptical popping open a Pepsi. Don’t let this Mickey Mouse loving, Katy Perry fan fool you. When it comes to teaching, he is just trying do his “thang” as Miley Cyrus would say. Dr. Michael Sulzinski is a walking biology documentary to say the least. Read on to learn more about this week’s fascinating Campus Celebrity:
Name: Dr. Michael SulzinskiDepartment: BiologyProgram: BCMB (Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology)
HC: What classes do you teach here at the U?MS: In the fall I teach BIO 100, a non-majors Human Biology course and BIO 364, Virology. In the spring I teach BIO 250, Microbiology. Each semester I also teach INTD 211, HIV/AIDS.In addition, I used to teach BCMB 464, the Molecular Biology of cancer. The class is coming back next spring, and I co-teach the course with a former student of mine who is an oncologist. It’s a cool collaboration.
HC: Wow, that’s a mouthful! Do you have a favorite?MS: I do. My favorite really is BIO 100. Most students in the course either don’t like science or are scared of science. They truly are in the class just because they got stuck trying to fulfill their natural science credits. I tell them on the first day of class that my job is to make this the most fun and best class you’ll ever take in college. The students become totally blown away when I announce that. My goal has always been to develop a class to make it as interesting as possible. So, ultimately, at the end of the semester, the students will never forget the biology they learned.
HC: Students fight to get into your HIV/ AIDS class. How does it feel for that class to be in such great demand?MS: Oh it’s great! It’s always been a sellout! During registration time I like to observe the class, as the seniors are registering. I watch the seats rapidly disappear. Before you know it, I start getting emails saying, hey can you write me in, and I can’t write anyone in. I wish I could because it is a great class to take.I’m not quite sure why because a lot of the kids who take it aren’t science majors. I believe a lot of the students who take it know somebody who has HIV/AIDS. The first half is really challenging and involves a lot of science. It is the hardest course I teach because HIV is a very complicated virus. It’s crazy how I teach one class just devoted to all viruses and then I teach this class that is devoted to only one virus: HIV. It can be a challenge to teach HIV/AIDS to students who don’t have a background in science, but I really do love it.
HC: How did it feel to receive all three Teacher of the Year awards back in 2005? That is such an honor!MS: It was such a nice thing. But a really great thing is when people ask me what my best accomplishment being a teacher was and it wasn’t any particular Teacher of the Year award. It’s a really cool story. Back in BIO 100 I lecture about lung cancer. At the end of the semester at student revealed to me that he quit smoking as a result of my lecture.Plenty of people ask about the teaching award. Yes, it’s beautiful plaque that I can display on a wall, but the best thing that I ever did was to stop my student from smoking. As far as I know, he still isn’t smoking at all. So having made a change in one student’s life out of all the kids I’ve ever taught really was my best accomplishment.
HC: Before you came to The University of Scranton, What did you do?MS: I worked on vaccines and polio for a while.
HC: What is your favorite research you’ve ever done?MS: When I worked in the pharmaceutical industry and I did research on chlamydia, my favorite sexually transmitted infection. I ended up developing a chlamydia test that is patented and used in the U.S. and worldwide. My chlamydia patent is definitely my claim to fame.
HC: Are you involved with anything else on campus?MS: Yes, I am the faculty mentor for Jesuit Honors Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. I’d consider it my side job. There is an induction each spring, so I watch over the officers to make sure there is continuity year after year.I am also going on an ISP (International Service Project) trip to Jamaica in June. It is my first time going on one after being at the university for 25 years. I reluctantly said yes and I’m extremely happy I did. I’m super excited, its going to be really really cool experience.
HC: What are your hobbies?MS: Running! Interesting story because as of two years ago I never ran before in my life. Scranton has a benefit 5K, called ROAR for Ryan, Dr. O’Malley ‘s son who passed away. Dr. O’Malley asked me if I would do it. I used to work out excessively, but I never ran before, so I agreed to run the 5K honor his son. Once it was over, I thought “wow this is tons of fun!” I began running 5Ks every week and I still do.Since Ryan was a runner, whenever I see Dr. O’Malley I remind him that every time I run I continue to honor Ryan because he changed my life. I’ll be doing it once again at the end of May. It will be officially 2 years since I started running.I also love trees. I have this ancient fossilized tree; it is a hundred million years old. This thing has survived all these years of evolution and it hasn’t changed at all. I like to plant stuff and I like to watch stuff grow. It’s like a legacy. When I’m not here anymore this tree is going to be around for years. I am hoping to plant during my ISP Jamaica trip, so I can also leave my legacy in another country.