Eugenia Villa-Cuesta, Ph.D., started Active Adelphi as a way for professors to learn from one another.

Eugenia Villa-Cuesta, Ph.D., is popular with her students. So popular that when they learned before the Spring 2014 semester that she had given birth to a girl named Marta, one student made a hat for the child.

“I don’t want a gap between the professor and the students,” said Dr. Villa-Cuesta, an assistant professor of biology at Adelphi University since 2013. “I want my students to be comfortable talking to me, but not just so they can get better grades.”

Dr. Villa-Cuesta returned to Garden City in Spring 2015 intent on continuing efforts to make herself and her colleagues more effective at teaching science.

Along with Sam L Grogg, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, she started the Active Learning Committee, or Active Adelphi, “as a way each of us could learn from other professors how to teach students better,” she said.

Active Adelphi, which recessed during Dr. Villa-Cuesta’s maternity leave, is scheduled to reconvene in 2015.

“I got the idea for the committee after attending a summer institute on how to teach biology,” Dr. Villa-Cuesta said. “I love to teach and I love science. You’re not going to transfer knowledge to students unless you’re really passionate about what you’re teaching.”

Dr. Villa-Cuesta’s research interests pertain to how genes and the environment influence aging and disease. She experiments with cultured cells to study the molecular mechanisms by which nutrition influences life span and health. Her work has been published in academic journals and she co-authored the book, Experimental Techniques for Concepts and Methods in Biology: Laboratory Methods I.

“In my classes, I put students in groups and they have to figure out what to do by asking questions,” she said. “Some students are more visual. Some are more verbal. I have to make sure they get the knowledge I want them to get. If knowledge is water, motivation makes the student thirsty.”

A native of Spain, Dr. Villa-Cuesta earned her graduate degrees at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and then came to the United States to do postdoctoral research at Brown University. She and her husband, Francisco Rodriguez, a software manager at Kurzweil Music Systems, have a 3-year-old son, Mateo, as well as daughter Marta.

Dr. Villa-Cuesta’s husband works at home, which may make spending time away from her young ones somewhat easier for the professor. Her Adelphi students are the beneficiaries.

“All the time I’ve been at Adelphi, I’ve been learning from my students,” she said. “I’m still evolving. I hope to be learning and evolving until I retire.”

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Todd Wilson
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