Brian Merkel, Associate Professor of Human Biology, enjoys helping students find their passion and making that their career. When he isn’t in the classroom, he enjoys being on the lake fishing.
Name: Brian Merkel
Position at UWGB: Associate Professor of Human Biology
Summary of what you do: Pre-health advisor, I teach courses in Immunology, Advanced Microbiology, Microbiology, Human Disease and Society
How long have you been employed:19 years
Three words that describe you: Passionate educator, Believer in student potential, OCD
Personal interests: Playing Drums, Fishing, especially for Smallmouth Bass, Movies
Any favorite line from a movie? I’m your huckleberry from Tombstone
Are you messy or organized? Organized chaos
Best vacation you’ve been to? Maine/San Francisco
Describe what you were like at age 10. Mischievous
Favorite travel spot? The waters of Sturgeon Bay
If given a chance, who would you like to be for a day? The governor of Wisconsin
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you? Josh Brolin or Chris Pine…I saw Hell or High Water recently and he was fantastic in that film.
If you could change one thing about working here, what would it be? Include all of our students in convocation
Tell us a little about yourself. I grew up in a small town in New Jersey, approximately thirty minutes from NYC. My parents despised their jobs, wanted more for their children and wholly believed in the value of a college education as a means to secure better futures for their children. I was a first generation college student and was determined to do well in college, so that I could obtain a job I could tolerate. At the time, I thought this was ambitious. After all, my parents hated their jobs. Sources of happiness would come elsewhere—family, friends, hobbies. This is how I thought things worked.
As a second semester college senior, I was unsure about a career path. I enjoyed science and decided to apply to Ph.D. programs in microbiology/immunology to pursue this inkling further. First year graduate students rotate through different laboratories to find a research “home” to complete their Ph.D. work, which can take up to 7 years. We were required to give research presentations on what we experienced during these “rotations”. The prospect of presenting scientific research to an audience was terrifying, let alone doing so in front of an audience consisting of senior graduate students and the entire graduate faculty. Quite unexpectedly, the presentations were an epiphany and I realized teaching science was a vocation. This was the first time I realized that obtaining a job I could tolerate was not enough. The prospect of turning a passion into a career was a new concept for me. I share these experiences with students as I introduce myself the first day of each class. The heart of the message is that if I can do it, so can they…identify a passion and turn it into a career. It’s important for students to see us as people. Faculty are human. We make mistakes, we struggle, some of us fish, we eat food. In fact, it never ceases to make me smile when I run into students in grocery stores. They simply cannot help, but stare at the contents of my cart. “Hmmmmm, Dr. Merkel. I didn’t know you needed toilet paper. I thought you were a microbiology/immunology machine getting your batteries recharged in Home Depot, so you are ready for class tomorrow. I see you like Dove ice cream bars…no kale…Hmmmm”. I understand it all, but it is funny nonetheless. Serving as a mentor to students, assisting them achieve their goals is the greatest reward. My old friend and colleague Ganga Nair used to say, “Students are my wealth.” We were kindred spirits in this regard.
What are your hopes for our industry/school? Statewide appreciation for the value of this place. I attended a small private college as an undergraduate and was a faculty member at a small private college prior to my arrival at UW-Green Bay. As such, I know how good this place is. In fact, I remember clearly saying to myself many years ago that the citizens of this state must be so proud of the UW System. I thought this was self-evident, requiring little attention from me or anyone else. I was terribly wrong. This message has to be asserted. The administration, faculty, staff and graduates need to articulate effectively the value of this place, not just to politicians, but to everyone…our families, neighbors, friends, acquaintances Secondly, In addition to highlighting the value of research, excellence in teaching should be appreciated more, especially in terms of raises and promotions. It is clear our students benefit from faculty that excel in either area.
What do you always want to try and never did? Skydiving
What is the first concert you attended? AC/DC in 8th grade.
What was your favorite book, toy, or outfit as a child? Tonka Trucks
What would you like to be famous for? Making a difference in the lives of our students.