Marcy Kelly

Pace University Dyson Professor and Biology Department Chairperson Marcy Kelly, PhD

Dyson Professor and Biology Department Chairperson Marcy Kelly, PhD, understands the necessity of commitment. As both a researcher and educator, she has often eschewed short-term solutions for effectiveness over the long-term, enabling her to properly analyze important scientific questions for students and colleagues to become both effective scientists and analytical thinkers.

Knowing that valuable scientific breakthroughs don’t happen overnight; Kelly has been studying the immune response with the organism that causes tuberculosis since her graduate school days. While tuberculosis is not often considered an immediate problem in the developed world, it is in fact one of our planet’s most widespread diseases, and there is still much to be learned in order to find a long-term cure. Kelly’s work is necessary in helping to inform vaccine development over the long-term.

“One third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and, of those infected, half are infected with a multi-drug resistant strain,” said Kelly. “My work in understanding the interaction between the organism and the immune response will inform vaccine development to prevent the disease and antibacterial development to treat the disease.”

Kelly has also been involved in discipline-based education research, with the intention of improving the education experience—as Kelly puts it, “to determine if what I’m doing in the classroom leads to gains in student knowledge.” She has published many papers on education research—including a recent qualitative research study on how biology departments embrace best practices in undergraduate biology education published in PLoS-One—and is currently an education journal editor, at the Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education.

Given her work and outlook on education, Kelly has mentored countless students over the course of her career, including recent graduate Elliana Gianacopoulos ’18, winner of the prestigious Henry Birnbaum Endowed Scholarship Award, who has since gone on to medical school. Gianacopoulos intends to become a physician with the aim of supporting under-served populations through both community engagement and medical practice—in addition to being on the cover of this issue of Pace Magazine, of course.

Gianacopoulous, considered by the biology department as one the best students to have come through their ranks, credits Kelly as an enormous influence—citing both her infectious passion for her work, and her careful consideration as to how to best motivate and teach her students.

“In addition to being an incredible female role-model, she inspired me just in the quality of the work she did each and every day,” said Gianacopolous. “She taught me how to actually learn and study. She taught me how to ask questions and to use scientific material to further my knowledge in the field. She fed my passion for science to a point where I felt I actually had it in me to go to medical school.”

All in all, Kelly noted she loves nothing more than watching a novice scientist develop into a colleague. And while she knows that this road isn’t easily traveled, she’s more than willing to help the young scientists of the future earn their place in the scientific community.

“Be patient, stick with it, work hard, and seek help early and often. Scientists work in a community,” she said. “It is that community that makes us better and stronger.”