“That’s our mantra: ‘What is best for the students?'”

Meet Rebecca Brogan, Ph.D., the 2015 Distinguished Teacher of the Year

By Rita Buettner  |  Photo by Rita Buettner

Students may stop by to visit Rebecca Brogan, Ph.D., to talk about biology class. But they soon discover that the associate professor of biology wants to talk about how they are doing outside the classroom, too.

“She’s just an amazing teacher, but not just a classroom teacher,” said David Rivers, Ph.D., professor of biology and department chair. “When you go into her office to talk to her, bring a Snickers because you’re going to be there a while. She wants to know what’s going on in your life. She has advice and she’s going to share it with you. The students see Becky as being a true role model, a ‘life check.’”

It was no surprise to her students or her colleagues in the biology department that Brogan was named the 2015 Harry W. Rodgers III Distinguished Teacher of the Year. The award is always kept a secret until the announcement at the Deans’ Symposium, held as part of Loyola’s Maryland Day festivities, celebrated this year on March 20.

In fact, Brogan may have been the only one who was caught off-guard.

“It’s such an honor, but it’s very overwhelming,” she said. “I came from research. I learned this craft—teaching—from my colleagues. I’m very grateful to the biology department because they’re so eager to help you and give you advice—and smack you if you need it. Really the overriding goal for the department—and most of the campus—is to do what’s best for the students. That’s our mantra, ‘What is best for the students?’”

When Brogan joined the Loyola faculty in 2005, the research spaces were either non-existent or under renovation. So she started doing research with her husband, Charles Chaffin, Ph.D., a scientist at University of Maryland Medical School. Chaffin, an ovarian physiologist, studies the time period that regulates ovulation.

“I couldn’t do what I was trained to do, but the tenure clock was ticking,” Brogan said. “We use his research ideas and projects and our joint backgrounds and experience to give Loyola students technical knowledge while also allowing them to interact with a wider range of scientists.” Brogan herself is curious about the way in which diet affects overall reproductive health both at the level of the ovary and the brain.

Brogan has also conducted maggot mass physiology research alongside Rivers. Although she is interested in metabolism, she likes to have multiple research projects happening at once.

“I was always taught to keep two or three things on the back burner because when one stalls out, you have another one in mind,” she said.

That is both one of Brogan’s assets and also one of the biology department’s strengths, Rivers said.

“That’s really what we expect that our faculty would be able to do,” he said. “When you come to Loyola, you need to be adaptable, you need to have breadth, you need to have passion. Becky is excited about getting involved in multiple questions. She embodies that, and so do many of my colleagues.”

Brogan especially enjoys connecting with colleagues through research.

“Science is about people,” she says. “I tell my students, if you’re thinking about going into science because you don’t want to be with people or interact with people, you’re going into the wrong field, because it’s all about interacting with your colleagues.”

Brogan’s office in the expanded Donnelly Science Center is the former “radiation dump” for the building, but she loves the space, her personal lab, and keeping an eye on the blue jays in a tree within view of her window.

Brogan, the mother of two boys, George, 19, and Charlie, 10, describes the biology department as a family. But what she loves most about teaching at Loyola are the students.

“We have such great students here. It sounds like a soundbite, but it’s true,” she said. “I’ve been other places, and it’s not the same.”

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