by Claudia Villeda
Nykolaus Reed, assistant professor of biology, is this year’s recipient of the Trevecca Teaching Excellence Award.
The Teaching Excellence Convocation was held on March 3 with an address from the 2021 recipient, Timothy Gaines, associate professor of religion.
The Teaching Excellence Award is presented by the Conference of Chairpersons, composed of academic deans and department chairs. Students, faculty and academic chairs nominate a faculty member for this award.
Reed arrived at Trevecca in the fall of 2012. He began as an adjunct professor of life science. He taught the general education course for two semesters.
“I was working as a research fellow at Vanderbilt and a buddy of mine, Dr. David Vaught, had told me that Trevecca was looking for an adjunct to teach life science. And so it’s one of the Gen Ed classes that lots of students take, and I taught that free for a semester, and I really enjoy teaching here,” said Reed.
Reed applied for a full-time position to teach genetics in the fall of 2013 and he has been at Trevecca since.
“It’s allowed me freedom to do research. I do research now in corals and anemones which kind of ties into the fact that I always grew up-–I grew up in Louisiana, a big fishing state right in the Gulf. Love to go fishing, always had fish tanks in the house and it kind of just grew into my research interests,” he said.
He grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. From a young age, science was a big deal in his family.
“My mom has a master’s in microbiology and my dad’s a fireman. My mom’s actually a nurse. And so my mom was always big into science and going to art exhibits and going to the zoo. My dad is very mechanical, so I was always watching him fix things,” said Reed.
After high school, Reed went to Florida A&M University to study biology. About a year in he realized he did not want to be a doctor of medicine.
“I took genetics from Dr. Willie Washington and I realized I loved genetics. So that’s when I decided to go to grad school for that,” said Reed.
Reed was waitlisted for Vanderbilt’s genetics program, but ended up going to Meharry Medical College, which had a joint program with Vanderbilt. He then did his PhD involving fish genetics with Doug Mortlock.
Reed said that he was initially worried about teaching genetics at Trevecca because his research work involved evolution. During the interview process he was reassured by faculty that “evolution was not something frowned upon here.”
“I know that is a sensitive topic for some, but my fellow colleagues here told me that Dr. Boone’s written a book discussing evolution and that it is not an issue, [which] made me feel really good,” he said.
One of the things Reed loves about Trevecca is the tight-knit community and smaller class sizes.
“I get to really know our students. you may have majors in multiple classes throughout the years, so you really get to know them. And, you know, it gives me the freedom to kind of cater to some of the research in the labs and things that I know students are really interested in,” Reed said. “And I love the fact that I can play softball against students and dodgeball and eat lunch in the cafeteria with students, I just think that’s fantastic, the community here.”
Reed is motivated in his research with curiosity about the little things.
“I’m fascinated by these similarities and differences in the DNA between different organisms. Like why is your nose on the front of your face, but the nose of a whale blowhole on the top of its head? Those types of things that fascinate me are little slight changes. What causes those differences and that kind of stuff amazes me.”