Life Sciences Welcomes New Faculty

Lance Davidson

Lance Davidson

Dr. Lance Davidson grew up in Gig Harbor, Washington, later serving an LDS mission in the former Yugoslavia. Davidson received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in physical education from BYU. He received his Ph.D. in exercise physiology at Queen’s University in Canada.
Davidson returned to BYU for one year as a visiting professor teaching exercise physiology before taking a postdoctoral research position at the New York Obesity Research Center at Columbia University, and then a second at the University of Utah School of Medicine. He spent three more years at the University of Utah as a research assistant professor in cardiovascular genetics while also earning a second M.S. degree in clinical investigations.
Davidson met his wife, Amiee (BYU Nursing, ‘00), on a blind date at BYU, and they now have four children. He loves to play racquetball and enjoys lightweight backpacking.
Neil Hansen

Neil Hansen

Dr. Neil Hansen was born and raised in Orem, Utah, and earned his B.S. and M.S. from BYU in agronomy. At the University of Minnesota, he earned his Ph.D. in soil physics. He taught at Colorado State University and, while there, researched irrigation and water scarcity.
Hansen joined the college as an associate professor of environmental sciences. He is excited to be a part of BYU’s rich history of agricultural and environmental research and its aim to combine the gospel with academic learning.
He and his wife, Jennifer, are happy to bring their three girls and two boys back to the area where they both grew up. This past June, Hansen ran his first marathon by way of what he calls “drop by drop” dedication. Hansen also served in the Peru Lima South mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is looking to revive his Spanish.
Perry Ridge

Perry Ridge

From Burbank, California, Dr. Perry Ridge first came to BYU as an undergraduate student. After serving an LDS mission in Sao Paulo, Brazil, he returned to BYU and graduated with a double major in computer science and bioinformatics. He received an M.S. degree in biochemistry from the University of Nebraska and earned his Ph.D. in biology from BYU studying the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease.
As a new associate professor of biology, Ridge says that it has “always been [his] dream to work at BYU.” He loves the atmosphere and is excited to get to know the students. His research interests include bioinformatics and computational biology.
He enjoys running, fishing, and cheering on the BYU football and basketball teams. He met his wife, Kristen, through a mutual acquaintance, and they now have three girls and one boy, ages one to seven.
Chantel Sloan

Chantel Sloan

Dr. Chantel Sloan has returned to the place of her birth—Provo—as a professor in the Department of Health Science at BYU. She completed her bachelor’s at BYU–Hawaii and her Ph.D. at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. After receiving her doctoral degree, she accepted an internship at the State University of New York at Stony Brook before spending the last three years working on a postdoctoral fellowship at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.
Her main research interest is medical geography, an area of study which maps disease occurrence around the world and identifies what could be causing high rates in certain places. She is also interested in asthma and cancer epidemiology, in addition to the effect of air pollution on health.
Sloan enjoys hiking, reading, and playing the violin. Her family is scattered across the country, so she treasures time spent with them. She has one brother and three sisters (one being her twin). Currently, one of those sisters is a master’s student studying public health at BYU.
Arminda Suli

Arminda Suli

Dr. Arminda Suli grew up in Tirana, Albania, and completed her higher education in the United States. Suli first attended BYU–Idaho (then Ricks College) before transferring to BYU where she received a B.S. degree in microbiology. She subsequently attended the University of Utah and was awarded a Ph.D. in neurobiology and anatomy. Suli completed additional postdoctoral research at the University of Washington, where she focused on specialized sensory cells involved in the auditory and balance system.
Suli recently joined the Department of Physiology and Developmental Biology at BYU, and she is looking forward to both conducting research and teaching at BYU. Her research program will use molecular biology and genetic methods to study nervous system development. She will be teaching developmental biology in the Winter semester of 2014. Suli loves spending time outdoors, trail running, and road cycling.
Jeffery Tessem

Jeffery Tessem

Originally from Provo, Utah, Dr. Jeffery Tessem earned his B.S. in microbiology from BYU, followed by a Ph.D. in biochemistry and molecular physics from the University of Colorado. While completing his postdoctoral fellowship at Duke University Medical Center, Tessem researched how to replicate beta cells for the treatment of diabetes. He also taught at local universities, including North Carolina Central University and Elon University.
Tessem joined the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Science in August 2013, and will begin teaching Nutritional Biochemistry this winter. He is excited about working with the high-caliber students at BYU; he finds great joy in being a mentor and wants to instill in his students a love for research. He will continue researching diabetes and beta cells.
He and his wife, Kathleen, have been married for fourteen years. They have one boy and three girls. Their family enjoys camping, cycling, running (Tessem completed the Boston Marathon this past spring), and spending time outdoors. Along with his love of nature and exercising, Tessem also enjoys making cheese and sausages.
Evan Thacker

Evan Thacker

Dr. Evan Thacker lived in multiple states throughout his childhood, including Utah, Illinois, and Arkansas, but he considers Seattle, Washington, his home. Thacker served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Sapporo, Japan. He then came to BYU where he completed his bachelor’s in neuroscience in 2003. Thacker continued his education at Harvard University from 2003 to 2005, attaining an M.S. in epidemiology (the study of public health and the causes of disease). Thacker continued his graduate work in epidemiology at the University of Washington in Seattle, receiving his Ph.D. in 2011.
Thacker moved to the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2011 to continue his research. His research interests include the connection between heart health and brain health, with a special focus on chronic diseases. Thacker began teaching in the Department of Health Science at BYU this fall.
He met his wife, JaNeece, in Boston, Massachusetts, where they were both completing graduate school. His favorite thing to do is spend time with her and their two children.

Alumni Achievement Award: Craig Meyers

Dr. Craig Meyers is the recipient of the 2013 Alumni Achievement Award for the College of Life Sciences

By Natalie Taylor

Dr. Craig Meyers and President Cecil Samuelson Dr. Craig Meyers (left) and President Cecil Samuelson (right)

Each year, BYU’s ten colleges and the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies select outstanding graduates to recognize with the Alumni Achievement Award. These alumni, who have demonstrated outstanding achievement and excellence in their professions, also serve as examples of what the university hopes for all of its students—to apply what they have learned in their studies and to lead exemplary lives. This year, the College of Life Sciences has recognized Dr. Craig Meyers.

Dr. Meyers has researched and taught microbiology for over thirty years. He received both his B.S. and M.S. in microbiology from BYU and then went on to the University of California, Los Angeles, where he earned his Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology. Meyers is best known for his work with the human papillomavirus (HPV), a virus known to be one of the major causes of cervical cancer. In 1992, Meyers’s lab became the first to grow HPV in a laboratory setting, and this growth method is still the only one used today.

As a result of his innovations in the laboratory, Meyers has authored or coauthored eighty-nine publications and has been awarded eight patents. He has recently been researching the relationship between HPV and a common virus called adeno-associated virus type 2 (AAV2), and in the last few years, his laboratory has discovered the AAV2’s ability to kill human cancer cells.

In 2012, he was awarded the rank of Distinguished Professor at Pennsylvania State University, where he has been teaching for the past twenty years. Meyers and his wife, Tina, live in Pennsylvania and have four sons. Their son Jordan, another BYU microbiology graduate, is following in his father’s footsteps as he researches HPV and attends Harvard’s virology Ph.D. program.

During homecoming week, Dr. Meyers and the university’s ten other honorees returned to BYU and their respective colleges to present a lecture as part of receiving this award.