Mike Manzella – Teacher in Training

Hello there,

I am currently a post-doctoral researcher at Colorado State University (CSU).  I was hired on as a microbiologist on a microbial ecology focusing on freshwater bacteria.  I am developing a technique to analyze the carbon:nitrogen:phosphorus ratio in single cells while simultaneously linking this to phylogeny.

Prior to moving to Colorado and beginning my post-doctoral work, I was a graduate student at Michigan State University (MSU) working on deep-sea iron reduction by an archaea (like a bacteria but not) that grows at near-boiling temperatures (85°C or 185°F).  Fascinating little guys indeed.

The research itself was interesting enough, but after my PI ran low on research funds (darn recession) I found myself teaching more and more to provide my own funding.   At first I viewed the teaching merely as a waste of my ‘valuable’ grad student time.  I should be in the lab, I should be working, I should be loving what I do.

But, as the years went on and I continued to teach, I found that most days I would happily go about my teaching tasks but ended up slogging through my research.  This led to many restless nights, but one day it dawned on me – you are allowed to be a teaching professor.  You don’t have to be destined for the life of a lab-rat.

This epiphany has helped my graduate school life greatly, and I love it.  I’ve taken many seminars and workshops designed to train me how to be an effective teacher.  I now feel that I have more legitimate training than most professors who’ve been in the business for years.  Simply teaching can provide experience, but there are experts out there…and all professors should take advantage of similar training opportunities.

Regardless of that fact, I now appreciate my graduate career as an opportunity to become trained.  Not only in the sciences, but now as a teaching professor.  If there are any graduate students out there who have similar feelings – don’t fret!  Once I switched how I thought about this whole thing my research is going better and I now know what I’m going to do with my life.   Ohhh happy dayyyyys.  Oh happy daaaayyyysss.


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