Michael Leonardo
Associate Professor of Biology

Michael LeonardoEducation
B.A. Biology, Knox College
M.A., Ph.D. Microbiology, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

What classes are you currently teaching?
I am the “cell specialist” for the department.  The courses I teach focus on both the eukaryotic and prokaryotic cell, such as Cell and Molecular Biology, Introduction to Microbiology, Virology, Microbiology, Environmental Microbiology and their associated laboratories.  I am also involved with the First Year Seminar Program, where I have taught courses on how microorganisms impact our daily lives (Microbes and Me) and HIV/AIDS (The Age of AIDS).

What activities or campus organizations are you actively involved with?
I am the faculty advisor for the Biology Club and I am one of the college’s Pre-health advisors.  I am also involved with Coe’s Environmental Club and am very involved in Coe’s initiative to help Cedar Rapids recover after the flood of 2008.

What makes Coe stand out from other schools?
Being a well-rounded person is a very valuable trait in today’s world.  Coe’s curriculum and out of class opportunities help our students to be prepared for life after college.  We have high expectations for our students, reflected in the rigor of our courses.  Our students appreciate the challenge because the courses are engaging.  I hear often from former students that my courses have prepared them more thoroughly than similar courses they have since taken in medical or graduate school.  Our internship, research and service-learning opportunities provide the additional experience to allow Coe students to go on and be successful not only professionally but personally as well.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?
This is a difficult question to address.  All my classes have aspects that make them enjoyable.  However, if I had to make a choice, it would be my Microbiology course.  I am able to take the students through a large swath of the microbial world, a world most students have not had much educational exposure to.  The amazing versatility of microorganisms and their ability to live virtually anywhere on our planet makes this course fun.  Seeing the students realize that there is much more to microorganisms than the few diseases they can cause makes this course most enjoyable for me.

Name your most memorable Coe concert, performance, lecture or program and what it meant to you.
My most memorable performance was the International Showcase put on by Coe’s International Club.  It is meant as a venue for the students to educate about their home country through their talents.  I remember one student from Nepal in particular whose nick-name is “Shaggy”.  He combined the native dance of Nepal with hip hop accompanied by a fusion of Nepalese and Hip Hop music.  It was an amazing display.  I was truly struck with the variety of talents our students have beyond their academics.

What research or projects are you currently working on with Coe students?
I have several projects that I am working on with Coe students.  I have students studying the effects the flood of the Cedar River had on the microbial communities.  I have a collaboration with Dr. Mario Affatigato in Coe’s physics Department where students are developing anti-bacterial glass.  I have students doing genetic analysis of iron reduction and biocorrosion by the aquatic bacterium Shewanella as well.  I also have collaborations with scientists at the University of Iowa and UNLV where students have travelled to study iron reduction and Shewanella.  Finally, I have students studying the normal microbial flora of tube worms.

Who is playing on your iPod?
Disturbed, The Raconteurs, Linkin Park, Def Leppard, Pink, Black Eyed Peas, Rammstein.  I like a lot of different types of music.

What book are you currently reading?
These days I am so busy, I really don’t have the time to read for fun.  I have been reading a lot of scientific journals for my research with my students.  It is difficult to keep current with the scientific literature.

What do you enjoy doing outside of class?
Playing and keeping up with our seven dogs.  They can be quite a handful.  I also volunteer for one of the local animal rescue organizations.  I am trying to keep up with my high school-aged daughter and all of her extracurricular activities as well.  But most of all I enjoy singing.  I am a member of the Chorale Midwest here in Cedar Rapids, where I sing with the Chamber and larger Choirs.  It is a wonderful time singing with other people who enjoy it as much as I do.

What is the best getaway location, local or abroad?
This is a difficult one for me to answer.  I have been many different places in the U.S. and each one has its own attraction to me.  But I would have to say, my favorite is one I just had the pleasure to visit.  The Rocky Mountain National Park outside of Denver Colorado is a great place to go.  The mountains are glorious, the air is crisp and clean, plus the views are spectacular.  I only wish I had more time to spend there.

What does teaching at Coe mean to you?
Teaching at Coe means the world to me.  It allows me to pay forward the educational experiences I gained from my own liberal arts education as an undergraduate.  The doors opened to me by having the personal interactions I had with faculty members propelled me to where I am today.  I try to provide a similar approachability to my students.  The passion I have for my chosen field of microbiology is, with any luck, translated into my courses and I am hopefully fuelling a similar passion in my students.

What is your favorite thing about Coe?
My favorite thing about Coe is the sense of community you get from the faculty, staff and students.  We all have a love for Coe and work very hard to make her the best college we can.

What is your favorite Coe tradition?
I like the ringing of the bell as the students enter as first year students during the first day of orientation and the subsequent tolling of the same bell when they are ready to graduate from Coe and move on to where their talents will take them.

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