Student-Faculty Highlights

Chris Palmer, Biology and AnthropologyChris Palmer, Biology and Anthropology

Chris Palmer
Biology and Anthropology
Annapolis, Maryland

Jean Hardwick
Professor of Biology
Ph.D., the University of Vermont; B.A., Smith College

Sparks and Discoveries
"When you’re doing research, it's all about discovering. You've got to work, you've got to find what’s going on rather than just memorizing what somebody else told you happened," Chris Palmer '11 says. As a biology student at Ithaca College, where student research is emphasized, Chris found the opportunity to play a role in a leading faculty member's work and lay the groundwork for his post-IC years.

Chris started in the College’s Exploratory Program and at the end of his sophomore year declared his major in biology. The one-time Bombers offensive lineman had visions of pursuing a medical degree after graduation, but an internship the summer before his junior year sparked his interest in research.

From Student Assistant to Student Author
Chris worked as a research intern at Cephalon, a biopharmaceutical company in Westchester, Pennsylvania, where he was introduced to the techniques of electrophysiology. He later learned the techniques are exactly the type employed by Professor Jean Hardwick in her work. She’s looking into how communications between neurons in the cardiac system adjust under different types of chronic heart disease. Chris approached Hardwick, interested in being a student assistant.

"When he came and talked to me, I was astonished at how much effort he put into looking up what we were doing, explaining to me how he could help me and what he already knew how to do," Hardwick says. "You know, you can’t say no to a student like that."

The work she’s doing could eventually help physiologists develop new treatments for heart disease, Hardwick says. For Chris, though, it’s allowed him academic opportunities not available to many undergraduates at other colleges and universities. He is scheduled to present his work twice this spring: first at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, hosted at Ithaca College, and then at the international conference Experimental Biology in Washington, D.C.

Their collaboration also led to shared authorship on a paper with Hardwick and the other student researchers on the team. That paper was submitted for review to the American Journal of Physiology this spring, "which is a pretty big deal for an undergraduate, and I'm very excited about that," Chris says. Being published would be a great addition to his professional resume, and he credits Hardwick for her generosity in recognizing the work her students contribute.

A Focus on Undergraduate Research
Chris appreciates how the research requirement built into the biology curriculum allowed him to delve into such extensive research during his time at Ithaca College. "It’s an undergraduate institution, so it really focuses on its undergraduates in ways bigger universities don’t," Chris says.

In fall 2011 Chris will start work toward his Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. He hopes to become involved in research on neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The biology program as a whole has given him a broad foundation, Chris says, and provides the perfect launch pad to begin his post-Ithaca academic pursuits. He credits the fact that the curriculum and requirements allow students to explore many facets of their scientific field.

"And that’s really what graduate schools, and medical schools, are looking for," Chris asserts.