Department: Anatomy School: College of Osteopathic Medicine Campus: Old Westbury
Member of NYIT Since: NA
Why did you decide to join NYIT?
I have always loved comparative vertebrate anatomy and paleontology, and one of the few graduate programs that had focus on both was at Howard University in Washington, DC. There I found a rare thing, a fairly large group of faculty that shared this interest all in one place as a department of Anatomy. From my research I had already known Matthew Mihlbachler and Nikos Solounias, and Dr. Solounias had spent years building a department much like that of Howard, so when the opportunity came, I applied. I love teaching gross anatomy, not only does it feel rewarding to be part of the education of so many people that will live their lives directly helping others, but our department is so flush with ideas and excited, active research, I cannot think of a better position.
What are your responsibilities at NYIT?
Like the rest of the Anatomy Dept, I teach the gross anatomy and embryology portions of the preclinical education years for the medical students here. This primarily entails instruction in the Anatomy Lab, as well as lectures. I primarily provide the lectures on the Head and Neck regions, though my education at Howard and subsequently at University of Chicago involved experience with gross anatomy, histology, neuroanatomy, and embryology, so there certainly are times when I try to provide links to those disciplines where I can.
The other hat I wear is that of researcher. Though this is technically 40% of my job, like any true research scientist, it consumes me. I primarily study the comparative anatomy and fossil record of marine mammals (seacows, whales, etc.), but have a broad interest in marine vertebrates and mammals in general, and try to keep my methodological palate very open to new things. Lately I have been focused on dental microwear, radiology, confocal microscopy (for 3D comparative histology), and paleopathology, though many of the best studies are simply based on visual observation of variation.
Lastly, I am involved in a number of activities one would refer to as "service". I am the Chair of NYCOM's Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), a member of NYCOM's Library Committee, Secretary of the NYCOM Academic Senate, and a member of the NYIT Academic Senate (with positions on its Education Technology Committee and subcommittees therein, and the Communications Committee). I also regularly interview students for NYCOM, and have found it a very rewarding experience.
What has been your favorite NYIT experience?
There are two more recent events that I've really enjoyed, and both relate generally to what I value most about being here.
1) One of my favorite things, as a teacher, is to see all the new students at the beginning of the year, scared and hopeful, all dealing with the new experience of being in the Anatomy Lab and jumping right into dissection. The variety of responses to that intimate, new experience, is energizing to see and reminds me why I love teaching. I've been teaching anatomy in some capacity (at Howard, Ohio University, University of Kansas, and University of Chicago) for 10 years now, but in each of those previous times I never stayed longer than two or three years because I was a student or postdoc. I've been at NYCOM since August 2006, so this past May was the first time that the students I taught in their first days of medical school were actually graduating as full-fledged doctors. Seeing them again after 4 years, different in so many ways, I was overwhelmed.
2) Much of the reason I came to NYCOM was that it was clearly this special place for researchers in comparative anatomy and paleontology. As a department, we all are very involved in societies devoted to our scientific speciality, like the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology (SVP), but it often feels very isolated from the rest of our experience with the medical students. In the past several years, a number of us have been more actively including students in our research, and this year at the SVP meeing (this past October in Pittsburgh), we had seven students presenting work with us ( Michael Ayoub, Angela Caldera-Siu, Doris Chan, Angana Homchaudhuri, Richard Lee, Benjamin McLoughlin, and Danielle Turrin). Though not all could come, some did, including Angana Homchaudhuri OMS III, and one NYIT undergrad, Michael Ayoub. Just after that, Dr. Mihlbachler and I went with two students, Mariya Milko and Daniel Kapner, to Harvard University so that they could present their research with us at a regional meeting of the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology. Mariya and Dan did an extraordinary job, presenting in the same sessions with PhD students and faculty from Yale, Harvard, and Brown. As an experience that speaks volumes for NYCOM, I have to say that these students truly excelled. I grew up with my father's graduate students always around, and have always wanted to mentor students in the same way - seeing these students succeed like this fulfilled that goal.
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Aynaz Alaei Campus: Manhattan Major: Architecture Class Of: 2018