Thursday, April 23, 2009
Teacher-scholar, Paul Gilbert, leads the SDSU Learning and Memory Laboratory, where undergraduate and graduate students conduct research by his side.
Paul Gilbert, Ph.D.
"He who does not research has nothing to teach." - A proverb
There are 100 billion neurons in the human brain, and Paul Gilbert, Ph.D., professor of psychology, conducts research to determine what happens to them as we age. How does he do so? With assistance from the SDSU students he teaches, of course.
The SDSU Learning and Memory Lab
When he's not explaining clinical conditions such as schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and stroke in his class on neuropsychology—one of many courses he instructs—Gilbert is leading the SDSU Learning and Memory Laboratory. It's here that undergraduate and graduate students have the opportunity to work by his side, honing their research skills while making strides in neuroscience.
"I watch students come through my classes, get engaged with the material and grow. Who knows—it might have been an experience in the lab that makes them decide to pursue a Ph.D. or teach," he said.
Gilbert's research addresses some of the greatest fears among older adults: memory impairment and Alzheimer's disease. With a focus on both healthy aging and neurodegenerative conditions, he and his students examine brain-behavior relationships to identify early markers of function loss. His goal is to find and administer new therapies earlier – in time to slow disease progression.
Acting as a guide
Gilbert's passion for mentoring students extends to helping them find their niche, whether in research or elsewhere.
"My goal is to get students excited and help them figure out what they want to do, or maybe even what they don't want to do. For them to be able to explore an interest and know what they're getting into is the first step. I would hate for a grad student to invest two weeks, and then suddenly say, 'Oh man, I hate research!' That's not good," he joked.
Students weigh in online
If his enthusiasm alone isn't convincing, his ranking among the top 50 professors on ratemyprofessors.com certainly is. This Web site is the Internet's largest source of collegiate professor ratings, with more than 6.8 million student-generated ratings of more than one million professors.
"He [is] my intellectual inspiration. He is an amazing teacher, who keeps the class engaged and his lectures [are] fun and interesting…" commented one of Gilbert's former students on the Web site.
Praise for making a complex and difficult subject interesting, and for caring about student success continues across pages of on-line student comments. According to Gilbert, it's his subscription to the teacher-scholar model that yields such positive results.
"There is no doubt that I'm a better teacher by doing research and a better researcher by teaching. And it's through being both that I hope to contribute diagnostic measures or treatments that help people as they age."