“What became really clear to me in my postdoctoral training was that I needed the energy of undergraduates around me and that I really loved teaching.”
Department of Psychology Professor Dr. Mark Zrull strives to create a community of learners and researchers in his lab. He knew early on in his career that undergraduates had immense talent that he could help cultivate. When he came to Appalachian, Zrull’s focus was on finding a position where teaching and undergraduate training were at the forefront of academic initiatives.
“What’s great about Appalachian,” says Zrull, “is that I feel like I am making a real contribution. There is an overlap of what I am being asked to do and what I value – that is important to me.”
Along with the responsibilities in his lab, Zrull teaches multiple classes a semester including: biological psychology, a course on the biological basis of behavior and neuroscience; special topics courses like the neuroscience of mental disorder; perception; first year seminar; sophomore honors seminar; and a graduate course each spring. Zrull enjoys watching students have an “ah ha!” moment, where they connect the material they are learning in class to the lab work they are conducting. He recognizes this moment of connection as what truly compels him to teach and mentor students.Zrull’s research focuses on neural plasticity and mechanisms of sound-induced seizures as well as stimulus-guided behavior. However, collaboration with undergraduate and graduate students has become a priority in his own research and departmental programs. Zrull hopes to provide students with first hand experiences in a research lab during their undergraduate education. By delegating tasks and projects to various groups or individuals Zrull notes that much more can be accomplished. His research program prompts students to formulate a research question that would fit in with the larger goals and outcomes of the labs ongoing investigation. He then helps students formulate how they will accomplish their research goals and supports students in their fairly autonomous work. Zrull then meets with students weekly or biweekly to help scaffold their learning and research efforts.
“Dr. Zrull is curious and eager to help guide his students as they develop their own research questions” says Hannah Godfrey, junior psychology major. “He is always willing to help hard working students.”
Zrull has found many ways to support student learning outside of the classroom. For example, he
was on the council of undergraduate research for several years and is a member of the national editorial board for the “Proceedings: National Conference on Undergraduate Research.” He is the faculty advisor for Impulse, the first international, online neuroscience journal for undergraduate publications based at Appalachian. He is invested in a residential learning community based on psychology called “Brain Matters” and continues to cultivate the relationships between residence life and academics on campus. Through Zrull’s many affiliations with undergraduates he has made a tremendous impact on student life at Appalachian and highlights the importance of student faculty relationships.
“Our best teaching and the best learning for our students is done when we are collaborating outside of the classroom,” said Zrull.
About the Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology
Appalachian’s Dr. Wiley F. Smith Department of Psychology serves 900 undergraduate majors seeking the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree in psychology, as well as 80 graduate students in the master’s degree programs in clinical psychology, experimental psychology, school psychology, and industrial-organizational psychology and human resource management. Its newly established Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) program will begin admitting students in fall 2019. Learn more at https://psych.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences is home to 16 academic departments, two stand-alone academic programs, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. The College of Arts and Sciences aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. Our values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of our students as global citizens. There are approximately 5,850 student majors in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing Appalachian's general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
By: Johnna Reisner
July 30th, 2018