Deborah Schulman, Ph.D.

Deborah Schulman, Biology

For some of us, our passions take root early in life. This was the case for Deborah Schulman, the daughter of two college chemistry professors, who spent her childhood in classrooms and science labs. As she grew up in a college learning environment, Deborah came to love science and aspired to “have students and grade papers,” not to mention “go to meetings” as her parents did.

While going to meetings has not turned out to be as exciting as her childhood-self had dreamt, Deborah’s love of science helped her to achieve all of these goals. She initially thought she would become a paleontologist, but the realization that this career path involves more work in the field digging than time spent in a museum turned her off to the idea. Instead, her love for fossils led biology to become the next logical discipline to pursue, as she became specifically curious about genetics and molecular biology in high school.

“The idea that there is a relatively simple molecule (DNA) that encodes the astonishing diversity of life on this planet is just too interesting a question to ignore,” she said. “I had to study it. Now I get to teach it, too!”

Following high school, Deborah earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Case Western Reserve University. Professionally, she has worked as a post-doctoral researcher in two fields, muscle cell development and apoptosis, as well as in the genetics controlling the development of the model organism C. elegans.

While Deborah taught at many institutions prior to joining the faculty at LEC, she always wanted to teach at a four-year liberal arts college. A bit of luck ended up bringing her here, as she happened to notice a new LEC billboard the same week her position was advertised, which prompted her to apply.

After many years of teaching the subject, Deborah’s love for biology has only grown. “There is no more interesting discipline than the investigation of what makes life go,” she said. “We have learned so much in the course of only about 100 years (since Gregor Mendel’s work was publicized), and yet there are endless open questions and the new discoveries keep coming. Molecular biology and genetics have an impact on every area of life—from agriculture and the environment to aging, health and disease.”

At LEC, Deborah teaches classes in introductory biology, cell and molecular biology, microbiology, genetics, and immunology, not to mention the labs that accompany them. Regardless of the subject she’s teaching, one of the most valuable skills Deborah hopes to impart to her students is the ability to think critically. “While the information learned in my courses and labs is most directly applied to students studying science, anyone who is a consumer, voter, parent, child or pet owner can benefit from these lessons,” she said.

Like many of our faculty members, Deborah’s favorite thing about LEC is the ability to have small class sizes, as she loves getting to know her students personally and watching them grow throughout four years of education. Outside of the classroom, she also gets to travel with students as the director of the Honors Program, which makes for many good memories.

“I cherish my interactions with students who are preparing for their next steps in life,” she said, recalling a moment when a student got the call that she had been accepted to veterinary school. “It was great to be a part of the jumping and screaming and hugging!” Even when the hard work doesn’t immediately pay off, Deborah likes having the opportunity to be there to provide support and encouragement for students.

To students who are considering attending Lake Erie College, Deborah can’t stress enough how many learning opportunities exist on campus. A recent example of this is a collaboration Deborah began with a colleague at the Kansas University Medical Center who studies the mechanisms behind the development of fatty liver disease due to alcohol abuse. Through this collaboration, animal work will be done on the KUMC campus and tissue samples will be sent to LEC for analysis by undergraduate researchers. “Data produced by our undergraduate researchers could be accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals,” she said. “How exciting is that!”