Andy Smith, Associate Professor of Biology

School of Humanities and Sciences | Biology

Good educators stick with their students until the concepts they’re teaching gel. Considering his research area, Andy Smith, a biology professor at Ithaca College, might have a slight advantage.

Andy and his student researchers—all of them undergraduates at IC—study the unique properties of the gel that snails use to stick themselves to surfaces, even slippery rocks battered by ocean waves. It might not sound like the most exciting topic, but Andy points out the incredible potential.

“Gel like this would make an ideal medical adhesive because it would stick to wet surfaces, and no matter how much the tissue flexed and bent, the gel would flex and bend with it,” he says.

Andy’s student researchers are there because the work is as exciting to them as it is to their professor. Sure, Ithaca requires science students to immerse themselves in lab research for one semester, but placement is based on student preference. Many continue beyond that one semester and eventually earn the autonomy to run their own projects and experiments, assist in data analysis, and author papers submitted for publication.

“I really like working with students in the lab because every day is different, and you never know what you’re going to find,” Andy says. “It’s a terrific process of seeing students grow in independence, maturity, and intellectual sophistication.”

That sort of hands-on learning is central to the Ithaca College experience.

“You can learn so much more in a research lab than in a classroom because research is a big, complex project,” Andy says. “You don’t know the answers, but you become responsible for finding them.”

>> More on this story: Andy Smith's faculty profile