Dr. Ryan Wynne says that after having a horrible chemistry teacher in 11th grade, he vowed that he’d never take another chemistry class in his lifetime. But things changed for the better in his senior year when he had the best biology teacher in high school. That’s when he realized that science was meant for him.
“If I were to be successful, I would have to take chemistry again, despite my early dislike for it,” Ryan says. So he studied it in college, earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and chemistry at East Stroudsburg University and later, a doctorate in biochemistry at Lehigh University. Now a professor of biology, he has been sharing his expertise in the sciences with students at St. Thomas Aquinas College since 2008—teaching courses in biology, biochemistry, genetics, and neuroscience.
Ryan has also been immersed in scholarly research, presenting and publishing papers in several journals in his field, including the Journal of Neurochemistry, Journal of Neurobiology and the Journal of Neuroendocrinology. His current research involves studying whether the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol changes in zebrafish when they swim in groups of fish. His findings could have strong implications in revealing how stress influences social behaviors in other organisms, including humans.
As fascinating as scientific research is, what Ryan most enjoys about his work is interacting with students and seeing them grow. “So many have gone on to become respected professionals in careers like medicine, physical therapy, pharmacy, optometry, forensic science, podiatry, chiropractic medicine, and researchers in graduate school,” he says. Among the many students Ryan has mentored over the years— Dr. Stephen Marsh, BS ’12, who is now practicing family medicine in Boston; Dr. Alexa Fox, BS ’13, an optometrist in New Jersey; and Courtney Tello, BS ’18, who is working toward her doctorate in molecular genetics at Stony Brook University.
Courtney says that when she realized that she no longer wanted to pursue medical technology as a sophomore, Ryan helped her figure out a new direction. He asked about her interests and said that research might be a good path. “He suggested that I switch my major to biochemistry and to try for a research experience for undergraduates,” she says. After completing two, she knew research was her future. “I am so thankful to Dr. Wynne and his advice and words of encouragement,” she says.
For the past six years, Ryan has served as the Honors Program Director at STAC and has mentored over 100 students from multiple disciplines. He also leads various service projects to instill the importance of giving back to the local and global community. Named “STAC Goes Green,” the projects are aimed to reduce the use of plastic straws and bags on campus.
“Last year, we raised over $1,000 from the sale of custom-made tumblers and donated the funds to the Wildlife Conservation Society,” he says. “This year, we have collected and recycled over 400 pounds of plastic bags in two months.”
Students and colleagues alike say that Ryan’s enthusiasm and genuine concern for students at STAC makes him stand out as an educator. “He’s the type of professor students adore,” says colleague Dave Eng, Ed.D, “the professor who always puts the success and growth of his students first. Simply, he is the type of faculty member that all should strive to be.”
At home, Ryan values family time with his wife and two children, watching baseball and football and planning vacations to Disney World. He’s also an avid gamer and a level 40 Pokemon Trainer.
“Gaming is my way to relax after a long day of work,” he says. “I most enjoy playing the Nintendo Switch with my kids, and getting out and walking during the summer while playing Pokemon Go with my son. Two years ago, I didn’t know about a single Pokemon. My son has taught me well!”