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As an EXCEL research assistant, Cliff Michaels of Easton, Pa., a graduate of Nazareth Area High School, helped Wendy L. Hill, professor of psychology and chair of neuroscience, establish a new neurochemical assay technique.

“Cliff set up our high-performance liquid chromatography unit, used to assess levels of neurochemicals in brain tissue,” Hill says. “We analyzed levels of serotonin in the hypothalamus of domestic chicks that had been exposed to different light regimes during embryonic development. Cliff has become a real expert in this labor-intensive and temperamental process, and his help has been crucial.”

“Professor Hill treated me as an equal,” says Michaels, a Marquis Scholar majoring in behavioral neuroscience. “We worked our way through a new procedure. EXCEL blurs the traditional line between professor and student, allowing each to challenge and learn from the other.”

In 1999 Hill was named Pennsylvania’s Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in recognition of her extraordinary dedication to teaching and exceptional impact on and involvement with undergraduate students. She received two major Lafayette awards, the Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award for exceptional contributions to students, the curriculum and the College, and Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Award for outstanding teaching and scholarship.

A specialist in comparative and physiological psychology, Hill played the lead role in creating the neuroscience program, an increasingly popular, interdisciplinary area of study that focuses on the ways in which humans and animals are affected by the activities of the nervous system.

“Largely because of Wendy Hill’s efforts, Lafayette is poised to have one of the preeminent undergraduate neuroscience programs in the country,” says Julio J. Ramirez, the R. Stuart Dickson Professor of Psychology at Davidson College, with whom Hill has collaborated in national efforts to advance undergraduate neuroscience education. “Her vision of education is one that will ensure Lafayette’s students will be among the best educated in neuroscience in the nation. Her contributions in promoting excellence in neuroscience education at the national level are already being felt.”

A member of the Lafayette faculty since 1989, Hill holds a Ph.D. from the University of Washington and a B.A. from Douglass College, Rutgers University.

Michaels says, “I am really interested in neurochemistry, and doing hands-on research one-on-one with a professor has given me valuable experience. At a large institution, a graduate student would fill a position like mine. Lafayette is a special combination of all things undergraduate schools should be. Strong academics, good community, good research, good athletics, and a good social atmosphere combine to make Lafayette very appealing.”

A member of Psi Chi, the national psychology honorary society, Michaels is student representative on the Faculty Committee on Teaching and Learning. He is chair of the Senior Class Fund Drive and vice president of the Student Alumni Association. He’s also president of the Coalition on Relationship and Rape Education, one of the Real Men of Lafayette, and a member of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity.

Categorized in: Academic News