Spend a little time with Josef Trapani, and what makes him light up quickly becomes clear.
It’s not his recent $439,357 grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders—the second-largest grant the National Institutes of Health has ever awarded to an Amherst professor.
It’s not the advances that could someday come from his research, such as better cochlear implants and devices that are better at detecting a much wider range of sound.
It’s when the assistant professor of biology walks around his lab that it’s apparent where his passion lies: in working with students. It’s there as he banters with a group from Amherst’s SURF Program who look up, grinning, from their microscopes; as he enthuses about a piece of innovative equipment one woman is creating; and as he talks to an undergraduate researcher about fish embryos.
Undergraduate students, he says, are fundamental to all that he does—from summer research in his laboratory, to co-authoring papers, such as one recently published in The Journal of Physiology.
“It’s really important that the research is fundable and exciting and asking important questions, but it’s also really important that it’s exposing students” to research methods and techniques, Trapani says, adding that he works "with the students to learn to do the experiments, but then they collect all the data, they do the analysis, they make the figures, they help write the papers.