Brian Merkel

Brian Merkel

Associate Professor

LS 409

Advising

Human Biology (Health Science & General), Biology (Cell, Immunology, Microbiology), Pre-Medicine, Pre-Dental, Pre-Veterinary.

Research Interests

My work has focused on the effects of environmental toxicants on immune function. I have had graduate students and undergraduate students explore these effects in cell, animal and human models. The effects of herbal supplements on immune function in a cell model is a current focus.

Other Interests

Family, Weimaraners, Fishing, particularly for smallmouth bass, Drums.

Education

Ph.D. 1994 Virginia Commonwealth University; B.S. 1989 University of Richmond

Faculty Spotlight - August 2017


Meet Dr. Brian Merkel

Dr. Brian Merkel has been with UW-Green Bay for 20 years and teaches courses in Immunology, Advanced Microbiology, Microbiology and Human Disease and Society.  He currently studies the effects of the herbal supplement, Echinacea, on the immune system in cell models and in human subjects.  He is a pre-health advisor for human biology and biology students and the advisor for UW-Green Bay’s chapter of the national biological honor society, Tri-Beta.  He also teaches medical students for the Medical College of Wisconsin-Green Bay.  Dr. Merkel say this experience has helped him become a better mentor, advisor and teacher for all of the students he works with at UW-Green Bay.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in a small town in New Jersey approximately thirty minutes from NYC. My parents despised their jobs, wanted more for their children and wholly believed in the value of a college education as a means to secure better futures for their children. I was a first-generation college student and was determined to do well, so that I could obtain a job I could tolerate. At the time, I thought this was ambitious. After all, my parents hated their jobs. Sources of happiness would come elsewhere—family, friends, and hobbies. This is how I thought things worked.
 
As a second semester college senior, I was unsure about a career path. I enjoyed science and decided to apply to Ph.D. programs in microbiology/immunology to pursue this inkling further. First year graduate students rotate through different laboratories to find a research “home” to complete their Ph.D. work, which can take up to seven years. We were required to give research presentations on what we experienced during these rotations. The prospect of presenting scientific research to an audience was terrifying, let alone doing so in front of an audience consisting of senior graduate students and the entire graduate faculty. Quite unexpectedly, the presentations were an epiphany and I realized teaching science was a vocation. This was the first time I realized that obtaining a job I could tolerate was not enough. The prospect of turning a passion into a career was a new concept for me. I share these experiences with students as I introduce myself the first day of each class. The heart of the message is that if I can do it, so can they...identify a passion and turn it into a career. Faculty are human. We make mistakes, we struggle, some of us fish, we eat food. In fact, it never ceases to make me smile when I run into students in grocery stores. They simply cannot help, but stare at the contents of my cart. “Hmmmmm, I see you like Dove ice cream bars...no kale...?”  I get it, but it is funny nonetheless. Serving as a mentor to students to assist them achieve their goals is the greatest reward. My old friend and colleague Ganga Nair used to say, “Students are my wealth.” We were kindred spirits in this regard. 


 

What do you consider your favorite hobby?

Smallmouth bass fishing is my favorite hobby. Living near one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in the country continues to play a role in shaping this passion.

What are you most proud of in your time at UWGB?

I am most proud of my students. The fact that someone as unsure as I was going to college gets to help students as a college professor is incredibly rewarding.


What do you wish other people knew about the UWGB campus?

I attended a small private college as an undergraduate and was a faculty member at a small private college prior to my arrival at UW-Green Bay. As such, I know how good this place is. I thought this was self-evident, requiring little attention from me or anyone else.  I was terribly wrong. This message is the responsibility of all of us. The administration, faculty, staff and alumni need to articulate effectively the value of this place, not just to politicians, but to everyone...our families, neighbors, friends, acquaintances.
 

What is the best advice you would give to Human Biology/Biology majors?

One, foster and maintain academic relationships with faculty. Faculty are here to help you, not only while you are attending UW-Green Bay, but beyond. Second, refuse to be an academic victim. Students that do well realize academic life is not about what is being done to them, but what they can do to get the most out of the academic environment of which they are a part of. Third, seek out feedback and regard criticism as an opportunity for growth. In fact, student response to criticism is a very common evaluation criterion for medical schools and job employment in general. Students are very surprised when they learn faculty have to rate students in this area. Professional programs, including medical schools, along with job employers find growth-minded people to be great assets.