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June 5, 2007 > Cal State East Bay selects outstanding professor

Cal State East Bay selects outstanding professor

Submitted By Barry Zepel

Michael Hedrick, known for inspiring students to achieve beyond their expectations, has won California State University, East Bay's 2007 George and Miriam Phillips Outstanding Professor Award.

The annual distinction, bestowed by the Academic Senate, honors a faculty member who exemplifies excellent teaching, prominence in his or her field and service to the university. Hedrick, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, fills those criteria and then some.

Hedrick, an Oakland resident and noted researcher in vertebrate respiratory and lymphatic functions, has more than 40 peer-reviewed publications to his credit and has given dozens of lectures at national and international universities and professional symposia. He's served on numerous College of Science and universitywide committees as well as panel review committees for the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health. Just in his time at CSUEB, he's worked on grants from those two organizations totaling nearly $1.7 million. He also is a grant reviewer. Cal State East Bay students have benefited from both his knowledge and his mentoring.

"It wasn't really in my mind to be a master's student," said Kambiz Kamrani. "From the beginning he saw potential in me."

Kamrani, whose master's thesis focuses on the neurological respiratory patterns in tadpoles, was working at a biotech company when he decided he wanted to become a doctor. He enrolled at Cal State East Bay to take the needed prerequisites he didn't acquire as a UC Santa Cruz anthropology major. Hedrick, now his thesis advisor, convinced Kamrani to go for a master's degree.

He told me I'd have the master's to fall back on if medical school didn't work out, and it would also make me more competitive to get into medical school," Kamrani said.

Anna Chen, until recently Hedrick's lab technician, praises him for his teaching, mentorship, thesis advising, help in getting into medical school and friendship.

"If I didn't want to become a doctor, I would work with him forever," Chen said. "You see, he's the most significant person in my life."

Chen began working with Hedrick in 2002 as an undergraduate. She then worked as a lab technician while earning a master's degree. Hedrick gave Chen opportunities to teach lab courses - to make her more competitive - to earn money working in the lab and to publish as a coauthor on two of his journal articles.

Not only students have benefited from Hedrick's support.

"He's been very welcoming to new faculty and very supportive about getting research going here," said Kara Gabriel, an assistant professor of psychology.

Gabriel, who nominated Hedrick for the outstanding professor award, works with him on the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, which he chairs. That group of university and community members makes sure animal research on campus is conducted humanely and safely. No one on campus could work with animals if Hedrick didn't keep that committee active, she said. He even managed to get the same veterinarian that serves UC Berkeley's animal research committee to work with Cal State East Bay's much smaller program.

"He really is an excellent example of how it's possible to balance research and teaching at this university," Gabriel said.

That combination of teaching and research attracted Hedrick to join the Cal State East Bay faculty in 1995. Raised in Portland, Ore., Hedrick earned a bachelor's degree in biology at Lewis and Clark College and a master's degree at Portland State University. He then earned a doctorate in zoology from the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, and was a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Hedrick's research focuses on the respiratory systems of amphibians. He's been studying the brain functions of bullfrogs and cane toads to discover the neurological processes involved in their breathing functions. He currently has a $476,000 four-year NIH grant studying the cellular mechanisms for breathing and oxygen-shortage tolerance.

Hedrick is on leave this quarter but still comes to campus every week. He will spend August and September on sabbatical research at the University of British Columbia. In December he will teach a graduate course at the Universidade Estadual Paulista in Brazil, but Cal State East Bay students will find him back in the classroom for the winter 2008 quarter.

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