For Maureen Gannon MS ‘88, PhD, Adelphi University was both a logical and life-altering stop on her path to earning her doctorate in cell biology and anatomy.
Today, one of the most preeminent experts on insulin-producing beta cells, Dr. Gannon is a professor of medicine, cell and developmental biology and molecular physiology and biophysics and associate dean for faculty development at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. At the Gannon Laboratory at Vanderbilt, she currently oversees seven researchers and multiple grant-funded research projects.
After completing her undergraduate degree at Molloy College in just three years, Dr. Gannon—who grew up in nearby Queens, New York—took advantage of a partnership between the two schools to pursue her MS in Biology at Adelphi, which offered the requisite research she needed to secure a research position at Cornell University Medical College and ultimately pursue her PhD there.
She recalls her time at Adelphi in the late 1980s as a teaching assistant and the “olden days” in the research labs—back when protocols were a bit less stringent and the atmosphere was a bit homier, when experiments were done amid cups of coffee and, as she remembers, a lot of laughter.
Mentors Who Mattered
Dr. Gannon also has fond memories of her two faculty mentors at Adelphi—Frank Friedman, PhD, and Howard S. Grob, PhD–whom she credits with being outstanding educators who also helped push her out of her comfort zone and instilled in her a newfound confidence.
“We were able to select our mentors, and I chose them because I liked their whole philosophy and mentoring approach,” says Dr. Gannon. “And we had the best time—they were fun and really enthusiastic, and we did and learned so much. They were also very proactive in getting grants and supporting us to attend conferences.
“They were really like my dads. When it came time to apply to PhD programs, they encouraged me to aim high and not play it safe,” she says. “They were the ones that took me to the first conference I presented at, and we remained close friends for the rest of their lives.” Sadly, Dr. Grob passed away relatively young, but Dr. Friedman lived into his 90s. “I saw him every time I came back to New York to visit.”
Dr. Gannon also recalls that her network of teaching assistants at Adelphi was extremely supportive, unlike some of the more cutthroat environments at some other institutions. “The senior TAs were always there to help out the junior TAs,” she says. “Everyone was very caring and accommodating. I really felt protected here.”
Prepared to Excel
Dr. Gannon describes how the research training she received at Adelphi helped her get her foot in the door at Cornell. She first applied for a research assistantship at the school, and after she showed the principal investigator her impeccably organized master’s thesis lab notebook, Dr. Gannon was hired immediately. That position progressed into her being accepted into the PhD program there, after which she pursued her postdoctoral training in her current specialty at Vanderbilt.
Looking back at a career that thus far has taken her throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East to present research, which has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, American Diabetes Association, and Veterans Administration, Dr. Gannon still holds on to some of the lessons she learned at Adelphi.
“Research needs to be creative and to move a field forward. You need to recognize and push new boundaries, and while people think science and math are not creative like the arts, I learned very early on that was not true,” she says.
Dr. Gannon deeply values the mentorship she received at Adelphi and its impact on her professional success. “You should always have a mentor at every point in your life. They help put things in perspective, help guide you on your path and serve as role models,” she says. “And one mentor probably won’t fill all your needs, especially at different points in your life.”
And recalling her mentors at Adelphi, she emphasizes: “You just need to find those who have your best interests at heart.”