Excellence in Teaching
College of Life Sciences and Agriculture


previous profile
Excellence home
Next profile
Previous Profile Excellence home Next Profile

 

 

Andrew Laudano
Associate Professor of Biochemistry

 

 

A few years ago, Andy Laudano conducted a short seminar for high school students participating in Project SMART (Science and Mathematics Achievement Through Research Training), the University’s summer science program. So compelling was the biochemist’s talk about cancer research that two students skipped lunch and worked late into the night for the next two weeks in Laudano’s lab in Rudman Hall. The students, with the help of Laudano and graduate students, performed the first test that showed a particular antibody actually worked in recognizing a kind of protein that is activated in some breast cancers, the active Src (pronounced sark) protein.

“I’ll never forget it,” Laudano says. “It was one of those run-out-into-the-hall-and-yell-to-everyone moments.”

The discovery meant that these “manufactured” antibodies could bind to the active Src proteins that contribute to uncontrolled growth of some breast cancer cells and other forms of cancer.

Recently, a grant from the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation allowed Laudano’s laboratory to prepare antibodies that can determine when the estrogen receptor is turned on. Incubating human breast tumor samples with these antibodies may some day allow doctors and their patients to predict which tumors will respond to anti-estrogen drugs such as Tamoxifen.

He claims his role in the discovery was modest, but others would disagree. Laudano says: “I provided the stage for students, that’s really all I did.”

His colleague, UNH microbiologist Tom Pistole, says: “What sets Andy apart is his absolute dedication to creating the ideal learning experience for students as well as his dedication to both the undergraduate and graduate learning experience.”

Laudano’s teaching focus has been in both upper-level and graduate-level courses. He recently said he wanted to teach an introductory course because he wanted to broaden his teaching experience to include first-year students.

“Andy took the biology course on an overload basis,” says Pistole. “He offered an honors section of Biology 411 and is working with other faculty and graduate students to create a new set of laboratory experiences for these students. It is a monumental undertaking.”

Laudano’s interest in science began when Mr. Amarante, his third-grade teacher, brought a microscope to school. “I looked through the eyepiece before he even put a slide on, and it looked like the moon,” Laudano recalls. “That was the turning point for me.”

Laudano’s teaching style doesn’t change from one level to the next, he says. “I take something that is very complicated, and break it down to small logical steps,” he explains. “I tell students that science gives them the confidence to understand anything they want; as big as anything is, we can break it down into components that we all can understand. My most shining moment when I’m teaching is when I see that they get it.

“I was trained as a chemist, so I am very conscious of trying to teach concepts in a way that is understood,” he says. In discussing the Src protein, Laudano likely will include a bit of history about it. In 1911, a farmer brought a chicken into a lab at Rockefeller University. Turns out that chicken is known to have the first cancer-causing virus, and that the virus caused cancer by making Src. “Now what was a farmer doing with a chicken in downtown Manhattan?” Laudano asks excitedly.

And many times, he says, “getting it” doesn’t happen in the classroom. Laudano is known for his evening and weekend help sessions, which include food. He is so well known for this that when the staff at a local restaurant sees him coming, they give him free food for his students.

“We scientists tend to think it’s our great lectures,” he says, winking. “But I’m convinced some of the best teaching and learning is done informally.”

—Kim Billings,
UNH News Bureau