Joined USJ: 2010
Growing up in Colorado, he had every intention of ultimately becoming a member of the Ski Patrol, which provides emergency medical and rescue services to skiers. That is why, directly out of high school, he enlisted in the Army - viewing that as an effective training ground. After three years, college was next, with a pre-med major. That was where Mark Sweezy began to notice something he found even more engaging than the potential to respond to injuries on the slopes. He was intrigued with molecular questions more than physiology, enjoying the “analytical reasoning” of biochemistry and molecular biology. During a junior year summer internship, he “actually did science” for the first time – which instantly became a “very important turning point.” His career path was now reset, joined with an ongoing commitment to undergraduate research.
Actual Science and Active Learning
Sweezy journeyed East, spending two years with a biotech company on Cape Cod researching and developing new chemical products, and after earning his Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, did post-doctoral research back at the University of Colorado studying genome instability as it relates to the onset of cancer. Having pursued bench science for a decade, Sweezy valued the “intellectually active environment” that teaching at a small university promised, coupled with the capacity to advance investigative research. While at the University of New England, he became convinced that the traditional lecture-dominant, test-centered approach to teaching was not sufficiently effective, and began to learn more about – and utilize – “active learning models, which do a better job of “fostering critical thinking.” When he heard “that was exactly what they were designing” at USJ, Sweezy was quick to join the School’s faculty.
Integrating Teaching and Research
“It has been the best job I’ve ever had in my life,” Sweezy points out, explaining that the modified block scheduling allows students to “solve more complex, sophisticated problems.” His classes “integrate what’s interesting, and what’s important,” and are admittedly demanding, but he is continually impressed with students’ genuine dedication. Having previously earned research grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, Sweezy “takes pride in involving both graduate and undergraduate students in his current research, analyzing DNA repair systems as they relate to carcinogens. “Doing hands-on science helps students look ahead to careers, and not only learn research tools and techniques, but use them.” Sweezy has published research on the DNA repair process and chromosome segregation, and has been a reviewer for scientific papers. He also advises the USJ pre-pharmacy club, fostering community–based activities that promote science education at the elementary school level. Most of all, he appreciates being able to pursue research “on an intellectual level, and which is very relevant – generating useful knowledge that is beneficial for society.” One without the other just wouldn’t do. It harkens back to his childhood interest in the Ski Patrol, and a desire to help people.
Ph.D., University of Vermont
B.S., Western State College (Colorado)
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