Even though he battled a major case of the nerves the first time he delivered a departmentwide seminar, Alex Morrison-Nozik counts it among his most rewarding academic experiences.
“It’s intimidating answering the faculty’s questions, but you get a lot of valuable feedback,” he says of the presentations, which are required of PhD candidates in pharmacology and toxicology.
“These seminars give us the chance to practice speaking in public, so they’re great preparation for when you present at big meetings.”
As it turned out, Morrison-Nozik had that opportunity sooner—and on a much larger stage—than he expected.
In only his second year in the department, he presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association (AHA).
“It’s the most prestigious cardiovascular meeting in the world,” he says. “There are 30,000 people there, so it’s a great place to see what’s going on in the field and meet others who are asking the same types of questions you are.”
While only one-third of all abstracts submitted to the AHA are accepted for a poster presentation, it’s even more competitive to be chosen to deliver an oral presentation, as Morrison-Nozik was.
He owes much of his success to a department that has honed his critical thinking skills and a mentor who has taught him how to apply those skills to research.
“The department is a great place to be creative and innovative,” he says. “The faculty are incredibly knowledgeable.”
Since he joined Ji Li’s lab, Morrison-Nozik has coauthored five articles in peer-reviewed publications and has been first author on two.
“Dr. Li always encourages everyone in his lab to generate as much data as they can, to get published and to present their work at professional meetings.
“He’s a big proponent of being disciplined, and he’s very concerned about our careers. He always makes sure that we get the best opportunities.”
In Li's lab, Morrison-Nozik studies the mechanisms of ischemic heart disease.
“This research is a very hot topic in cardiovascular medicine, and our group has such strong translational potential,” he says. “We’re looking at real clinical scenarios, identifying major clinical problems and trying to solve them.”
Morrison-Nozik began researching cardiovascular disease as a UB undergraduate. He chose the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology for his PhD so he could continue that line of investigation while gaining the expertise necessary to succeed in research.
“The department has a very solid curriculum. You learn physiology really well, you learn how to manipulate physiology using drugs and you get a great understanding of disease states from the macro to the micro level.”
If there’s anything Morrison-Nozik appreciates more than the faculty’s wide range of knowledge, it’s their open door policy.
“If you ever have a question, there’s always someone with the expertise to help you.
“I’ve done that so many times—just walked down the hall to get help.”