SUNY Oswego molecular biologist to receive Provost's Award

Dr. James A. MacKenzie, SUNY Oswego associate professor of biological sciences, has earned the college Provost’s Award for Scholarly and Creative Activity for his enthusiastic approach and dedication to research and teaching.

James MacKenzie.“We often consider these pursuits of ‘teaching’ and ‘research’ to be a dichotomy; in fact, our awards suggest this to be the case,” wrote Richard C. Back II, associate professor and chair of biological sciences, in nominating MacKenzie for the award. “Dr. MacKenzie, however, brings his exacting approach to both his teaching and research, and works tirelessly to take his research students through the entire experience, to teach them and to train them.”

MacKenzie, an Oswego faculty member for seven years, received his doctorate in molecular medicine from Wake Forest University School of Medicine, and has directed the Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Center at Oswego since its inception. He teaches courses in animal physiology, cellular biology, immunology, molecular medicine and more.

MacKenzie currently is studying environmental toxins—especially heavy metals—and their effects on children’s cardiovascular systems. His research team has focused on lead, he said, but is now moving into methylmercury and the effects of a fish diet on children.

‘Infectious enthusiasm’

A co-investigator on the study, Brooks Gump, now an associate professor of health and wellness at Syracuse University and formerly at Oswego, had high praise for MacKenzie’s research and work with students.

“Dr. MacKenzie’s approach to research combines an infectious enthusiasm with a grounded practicality,” Gump wrote. “As a function of this enthusiasm, Dr. MacKenzie has been able to thoroughly engage students that he has mentored.

“It can be a challenge to develop an undergraduate’s knowledge and skills to a sufficient degree in research that might ultimately be published,” Gump said. “Dr. MacKenzie’s success in involving undergraduate research in our externally funded scholarship is perhaps his most impressive achievement.”

Besides the intertwining of research and teaching duties, another subject MacKenzie’s nominators agreed on is his ability to manage his course load, his positions as advisement coordinator, chair of the campus Health Professions Advisory Committee and center director, as well as his active research and mentoring.

“It’s all about the fact I work with spectacular people who are willing to share a burden,” MacKenzie said. “This award makes me feel really grateful I’ve had a chance to collaborate with some brilliant researchers, and I really appreciate teaching and working with the stellar students we have at SUNY Oswego.”

One of his former students, Kristen A. Roosa, now in the biomedical science doctoral program at Cornell University, supported MacKenzie’s nomination with her story. “I began working with Dr. MacKenzie several years ago when I applied for his summer research fellowship. I went into his lab simply looking for an experience, and came out two years later with a completely different outlook on research,” she said. “It wasn’t just the research that changed my life, but the great mentor I had during the process.”

MacKenzie, she said, “knows that a new generation of scientists will not simply emerge on its own. They need someone to guide and inspire them. I certainly would not be where I am today without him.”

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(Posted: Apr 14, 2011)