Professor, Science Department
Michelle Sama knows a thing or two about learning. More importantly, Dr. Sama knows what your brain knows about learning.
She’s not just a respected faculty member at Vermont Tech; she’s also a trained researcher who has her Ph.D. in Pharmacology. Her post-doctoral research fellowship at Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine was focused on neuroscience and the physiology of learning and memory. She studied how environmental enrichment can enhance our learning and memory, and was able to demonstrate that increased exposure to new and novel activities can improve learning and memory as well as delay the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in an animal model of the disease. The mice with environmental enrichment that developed Alzheimer’s had fewer symptoms than similarly aged control subjects in the experiments. “By providing exposure to novel tasks and greater levels of social interaction, mice performed better in memory-related tasks and had higher levels of things like nerve growth factor that has been shown to be an important modulator of learning and memory,” says Dr. Sama.
This expertise, as well as her love for being an educator, makes Dr. Sama the major contributor she is today. Her students appreciate her teaching methods to teach some of the most complicated material in a lab setting. Graduate Andrew Van Buskirk was quick to add, ”Professor Sama combines her enthusiasm for chemistry with a concern for the learning experience of each individual student. I felt lucky to have her as she guided us through difficult but rewarding labs.”
As the college liaison for the Vermont State Laboratory building, Dr. Sama facilitated observations for students of the soil borings happening on the Randolph Center campus. Even though the building is not scheduled to be open until the spring of 2018, Vermont Tech students are already involved in the design, permitting, and in the future, building of the state lab. Dr. Sama is aware that introducing these new and novel activities for Vermont Tech students will enhance their understanding of their classroom content. As Dr. Sama sees it, “Students truly benefit from the opportunity to interact with contractors, engineers and architects on the State Laboratory. They will gain a real-world, hands-on experience right on campus.”