Changes in Faculty and Staff
by Christy Eck, Carlee Reber, Miriam Sweeney, and Brendan Gwynn
Dr. Benjamin Abbott started off his undergraduate education at Utah State University by receiving the Quinney Scholarship, a four year scholarship for those studying natural resources. Abbott, an incoming BYU professor who started on July 1, 2017, made his commitment to the outdoors unquestionable by living in a tent for two of his four undergraduate years.
A watershed science major, Abbott researched the food webs (interconnected food chains of an area) of lakes in Alaska during his time as an undergraduate. He later attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks for his Ph.D., where he studied permafrost degradation. Following graduation, he did research in France with the Marie Curie program, which encourages international exchange in the sciences. In France, he studied how agriculture affects water systems. Towards the end of his time there, he also worked remotely as a research fellow for Michigan State University.
Abbott is excited to be able, as a professor, to direct his own research topics. He also looks forward to working with talented faculty and students. “I was really impressed by the collaborative spirit here,” he says. Abbot enjoys snow biking and playing the guitar and mandolin. He and his wife, Rachel, have three children, ages eight, five, and two.
Dr. Jayson Gifford chose exercise science for his B.S. at BYU so he could become a physical therapist. However, he became interested in preventing damage instead of treating it. After an M.S. in exercise physiology at BYU, he began research with patient populations during his Ph.D. at the University of Utah and postdoctoral fellowship at the nearby Veterans Hospital.
In the Department of Exercise Sciences, Gifford studied patients’ arteries using ultrasounds to detect early signs of cardiovascular disease. Subtle impairments to the vascular endothelium from disease, aging, and air pollution have long-term impacts on cardiovascular health. He hopes to expand on preliminary research which indicates that antioxidants protect vascular health from air pollution.
Though Gifford’s time at the University of Utah was formative, he and his wife, Casey, are happy to return to Utah Valley with their three kids. The couple married while at BYU after being high school best friends in Las Vegas, Nevada. His longtime crush was finally reciprocated because “she got really upset” when he started dating someone else. “That’s why she figured out she liked me and we started dating—and I was happy!” Each student is a “whole person” in Gifford’s eyes. He will teach exercise physiology this fall, and aspires to someday found a sedentary physiology class.
Dr. Dario Mizrachi was born in Punta Arenas, Chile, where he lived until he attended college at the University of Santiago. While there, he obtained his B.S. in biochemistry and wrote his dissertation on immunology for his M.S. During this time, he and his wife joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, then immigrated to Israel. He obtained his Ph.D. in animal reproductive physiology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, then came to the United States for a postdoctoral position to study molecular biology at the University of Iowa. He later spent time at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Cornell University before coming to BYU.
Of these experiences, Mizrachi says, “As I developed my career in research, I decided that drawing things from He who created all things was the right path.” Mizrachi hopes to continue doing research while at BYU and also hopes to inspire creativity and a desire to learn in his students.
Retiring Faculty and Staff
Dr. Gene Cole certainly deserves the title he was given by the Utah County Health Department in 2013: Friend of Public Health. Cole served in the Vietnam War as a medic diagnosing malaria, parasites, and STDs. This experience with tropical diseases inspired him to study for an M.S. in public health microbiology and for a Dr.P.H. (doctorate of public health) in biohazard science, both from the University of North Carolina.
From 1983 to 2002, Cole worked for the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine, RTI International, and DynCorp Health Research Services, striving to improve health around the world in some twenty countries.
He came to BYU in 2002 to help start the master of public health program, but that didn’t stop his international work. He remembers a particularly effective hygiene promotion project in South Africa, when a young mother who was being trained exclaimed, “You mean there’s things we can do, easy things, and our kids may not have to be sick and die?” He has also worked with student research teams addressing public health issues in the Hispanic community in Utah County. It was most rewarding for Cole to work directly with families and communities, and to prepare students to do similar work.
Cole looks forward to traveling to more places and continuing his work through retirement.
Carolyn Hanson feels fortunate to have served as office manager for the Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences. She has supported various departments on campus for more than twenty-two years. Before joining the Department of Plant and Wildlife Sciences, she worked as an administrative assistant in the Department of Theatre and Media Arts. In all her on-campus roles, Hanson was dedicated to making every individual who came to her office feel valued. She received many awards over the years, including the 2012 Fred A. Schwendiman Performance Award in recognition of exemplary service to BYU.
Hanson and her husband served as a part of an MTC branch presidency for years. Hanson felt like a mother to the missionaries and often helped them overcome crippling homesickness in preparation for their service. She is passionate about reading, hiking, watching films, and being with her family. She and her husband, Russ, are the parents of three and grandparents of eight. When she retired in July 2017, she rode off into a very hot St. George sunset to be close to her family.
Dr. Allan Judd taught over five thousand BYU students in his twenty-six years at BYU. “You get to a point you just can’t go anywhere unless you run into a former student,” he chuckles.
Judd thought he had left his most important mark on BYU when he and his teammates set the record (still standing) for the two mile relay in 1970, but then he returned in 1991. Judd evolved the pathophysiology class into a more modern and rigorous course by incorporating molecular biology. He also aided in the development of the physiology and developmental biology curriculum as curriculum chair.
A pioneer neuroendocrinimmunologist, Judd studied the interaction between the immune system and the adrenal gland. His discovery that interleukin 6 increases adrenal cortisol release but decreases adrenal androgen release has important health implications in long term inflammatory stress. After retiring, Judd looks forward to doing genealogy, attending the temple, and traveling with his wife.
Melanie Peine graduated from BYU in 1970 with a major in history, a minor in German, and a secondary teaching certificate. BYU has had a significant impact on her life. She participated in BYU’s semester abroad to Salzburg, Austria her junior year. Her next adventure was a skiing class where she met the bus driver she would marry thirteen months later. More adventures awaited as she and her husband moved to Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, and Fort Holabird in Baltimore, Maryland as he was attending interrogation schools before going to Vietnam. Her kids often mentioned that she got to see so many things and go to so many places, and she did, thanks to BYU. Now, after thirty-three years at BYU, nine children, and becoming a widow, new horizons are beckoning. She received an LDS mission call to the Minneapolis, Minnesota mission beginning January 2018. She anticipates a reunion with many food science students who work for General Mills in Minneapolis.