Meet one of Biology's Newest Faculty Members

September 25, 2013 —  

Michael Akins

      Michael Akins

Michael Akins

Assistant Professor of Biology

Hometown: It’s always easiest just to say that I grew up in a military family
Degree: PhD, neuroscience, Yale University
Research interests: The neuroscience of how we interact with our surroundings

Q: What did you do before coming to Drexel?
A: I was a postdoc in the Neuroscience Department at Brown University

Q: What’s your favorite book? Movie?
A: Book: “Gödel, Escher, Bach”
Movie: “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy

Q: What’s your favorite food or restaurant?
A: I always love good sushi.

Q: If you could have dinner with three people (dead or alive) who would they be?
A: Richard Feynman, EO Wilson and Yogi Berra.

Q: What’s one thing you couldn't live without?
A: My laptop.

Q: What was the most memorable class you took as an undergrad and why?
A: The Architectonics of Nature, a seminar I took freshman year. It’s hard to summarize, but it was an eclectic mix of physics, neuroscience, art and philosophy, all focused on how we perceive our surroundings. Coming into college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I thought it would be physics, computer science or maybe virology. This course got me hooked on the brain, and I haven’t stopped studying it since.

Q: Which current event/issue do you think students should know more about and why?
A: This is maybe a little self-serving, but neuroscience has been increasingly in the spotlight with a big recent bump from the proposed federal BRAIN initiative. But the brain is complex and the press can’t always do a good job of capturing that in a brief article or news spot, which leaves a lot of room for misinformation to enter the conversation. Having a better-educated populace will greatly aid the discourse that we have about our brains, the diseases that affect them, and why public funding is important.

Q: What’s one thing every student who plans on taking one of your classes should know about you?
A: It’s more about getting the concepts than it is memorizing the details. Details you can always look up, but you won’t know how to if you don’t get the concepts.

Q: What made you want to become a professor?
A: I love the combination of conveying knowledge to students while also adding new knowledge to the pot.

Q: What do you consider to be your biggest achievement thus far in your career?
A: A career is a long staircase with many steps along the way, but the most recent one of starting my position at Drexel is certainly the biggest one yet.

Q: What course would you be most excited to teach at Drexel and why?
A: I have really enjoyed teaching the Neurobiology of Autism, helping students to learn just how much we do know about this commonly misunderstood disorder, how we learned it, and that we will learn even more in the coming years.

Q: What do you hope to add to the CoAS community?
A: I hope to engage in scholarly discussions and collaborations with my colleagues in biology, the College, and beyond, and hope that the students I teach and mentor will follow that lead.

See Akins in action: CoAS Dean’s Seminar: “Lost in Translation: Axonal Protein Synthesis and Fragile X Syndrome,” Wednesday, October 16, 2013, 3:30PM – 5:30PM, Disque 109.