DYNAMIC DOC: Michael Hadjiargyrou’s Bold New Vision for the Life Sciences Department

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The most recent addition in the Life Sciences Department of NYIT has been at the highest level. Meet the new chair of the Life Sciences Department: Dr. Michael Hadjiargyrou, and you’ll see that the department has gained the benefit of a leaders who is committed to research and education.

Dr. Hadjiargyrou (had-jee-ar-geh-rue) started out as an undergraduate in City University of New York where he studied biology and philosophy. From there, Dr. Hadjiargyrou then went on to do research at Rockefeller University and New York University’s medical school and got his masters and PhD from City University of New York in molecular and cell biology. Afterwards, he undertook a postdoctoral fellowship at California Institute of Technology in molecular and cellular neuroscience. From there, Dr. Hadjiargyrou moved to Stony brook and was in the department of orthopedics from where he felt that the university would benefit from a department of biomedical engineering, and went on to start that department with other faculty.

Imparting Passion and Independence

Now, as a member of the NYIT community, Dr. Hadjiargyrou hopes to instill the same passion for learning in his students; and a willingness to embrace change and the future,. “Be passionate about what you’re doing, have a thirst for knowledge, and always be trying to change yourself,” he says. “Human beings are not static entities, they are very dynamic creatures and with that dynamism comes change. You should embrace change and not be afraid of change. It doesn’t matter if you have to butt the system to do it or disagree with your parents, it’s ok because that’s how you grow as a human being.”

To do that, requires greater autonomy; and to that end, Dr. Hadjiargyrou is ready to issue his own Declaraton of Indpendence.  “One of my goals here is to make students a lot more independent,” he says. “I don’t want students to come and ask me what courses they should take. I want students to tell me what they want to take.”

An Emphasis on Research

When asked why he came to NYIT,  Dr. Hadjiargyrou says, “ I came for an opportunity to transform the department of Life Sciences, and to help the Provost reach his vision of increasing the research output of the university.. Yes, teaching is very important, service to the university is important, but of course research is something that we lack here… We want to see a lot more research activity on the main campus.”   Dr. Hadjiargyrou also wants younger faculty to  become research scientist and professors who are able to use this knowledge not only for their own enrichment but also to help their students. He wants more professors to publish papers, write grant proposals, and perform more experiments

Changing the Department Inside and Out

The current plethora of options for majors at the Life Sciences department will now be changed to three degree options: biology, chemistry, and biotechnology. These changes have to be approved by the New York Board of Education and internally in NYIT, but are expected to be in place by Fall of 2013.

In order to further his research oriented goals, Dr. Hadjiargyrou has planned the addition of a laboratory in Theobald Hall. (Similar plans are slated for the Manhattan Campus). These renovations aim to expand the available space for research at NYIT and avoid dependence on laboratories at other universities.  “If we are to take our university to the next level, we need to have the appropriate infrastructure,” Dr. Hadjiargyrou says, “We also need the administration’s help to get the proper funding and build the labs for us so we can do the rest of the job.”

Dr. Hadjiargyrou adds that an important change to the department is an addition of a culture of active advising and mentoring of students by professors. “What I’m trying to do this semester is…assign a certain number of students to each professor, who will serve as an advisor and mentor. I want the students to feel comfortable to know that there is someone who cares about them, someone they can talk to no matter when.”

If you think this means trying to schedule office time with busy professors, think again. Much of this advisement, Dr. Hadjiargyrou says, can be done online.The system, previously used with BS/DO students, will now be expanded to all of the students because it’s so expeditious. This semester will be the first time this e-advising system will be available to all Life Sciences students.

While he is a researcher, Dr. Hadjiargyrou cares about the quality of teaching. He says he wants to weed out adjucnt professors that are not committed to their post and reward those that put effort into their students.  To help improve teaching, Dr. Hadjiargyrou  plans on going into the lectures of every professor and observing them, in order to give constructive criticism.

Starting an End to Cheating

Dr. Hadjiargyrou believes that students are best served in an environment in which knowledge and good grades are earned, not stolen. He is actively trying to put an end to cheating, in part by enforcing a new policy on academic integrity in the Life Sciences department that goes beyond university policies, and having more proctors during examinations. “ If you cheat through university, you’re going to cheat through your job, you’re going to cheat through your marriage,” he says. “It’s not the right kind of behavior to fall into. At some point someone is going to catch you and you will be held accountable. Are you going to cheat through medical, dental and graduate school too? To me, that’s just wrong.”

He also stresses that the problem is the result of both student and faculty carelessness regarding the seriousness of cheating. “We have some professors who are more vigilant than other. We have professors that administer a test and then sit in the front of a classroom. That’s just wrong, especially when they know that cheating happens and it’s brought to the attention of the professor by students who have witnessed cheating. I believe cheaters should automatically receive an F for the class, no questions asked.” Thus, in order to combat the situation, he and other administrators have started the Task Force of Academic Quality and Assessment. This task force encompasses the Manhattan Campus, Old Westbury Campus, and even NYCOM. Its first job is to evaluate academic integrity at all these locations. The committee that heads this task force consists of Administrators, Chairs, Faculty, the Provost, and Assistant Provost at NYIT.

More research, energized classrooms, empowered, independent students and a crackdown on cheaters. It’s an ambitious agenda and Dr. Hadjiargyrou realizes that he has his work cut out for him, “I know all these changes are going to take time,” he says. It starts, he says, with communication.  “My door is always open because I strongly believe in always being available to students.” In his final message to students, he wants students to come and talk to him anytime, “I love students, that’s one of the reasons I became a professor. I want to talk to students. I want feedback from them because ultimately the strength of our university is the strength of our students.”

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