Purdue Profile: Ahmed Mustafa

May 6, 2014  

Ahmed Mustafa

Ahmed Mustafa, professor of biology at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. (Photo provided) 
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Research and teaching go hand-in-hand for Ahmed Mustafa, professor of biology at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Since 2001, Mustafa has been involving IPFW students in his research, which focuses on stress in aquatic life and how to prevent diseases without the use of drug therapy. By involving students in the research process, this research directly affects the classes Mustafa teaches. 

How did you become interested in stress physiology and pharmacology?

Stress physiology is a fascinating subject. Stress initiates a physiological reaction in any animal, including humans, in response to changes in the environment, both internally and externally. If they fail to resist the stress, animals become immunologically vulnerable and thereby susceptible to diseases. At this point, animals are treated with pharmaceuticals that can cause side effects and harm the environment.

I have, therefore, become interested in these areas to develop better understanding of the physiology of stress to minimize our dependency on chemical treatments, to produce quality animal proteins for human consumption and to protect the environment from the negative effects of chemical pharmaceuticals. 

What research are you currently working on?

My current research attempts to modulate stress and enhance immunity within fish and shellfish to diseases using nutraceuticals. Nutraceuticals are the emerging class of natural products known as functional foods that provide medical or health benefits. Nutraceuticals hold promise in clinical therapy as they have the potential to significantly reduce the risk of side effects associated with chemotherapy along with reducing the global health care cost.

How do you involve your students in research, and why do you think this is so important?

I actively encourage students to become involved in scientific research. During my tenure at Purdue, I have taught many students (graduate, undergraduate and high school) how to become effective independent thinkers and apply those skills in scientific research. As a consequence of my efforts, they have received several small grants to support their research, presented their findings at regional, national and international scientific meetings and received co-authorships in peer-reviewed publications. Several of these students have transitioned to graduate schools pursuing doctoral, medical and pharmacy degrees. Most high school students have received several awards and prizes, moved forward to state and international science fairs and transitioned to colleges and universities. 

Involving students in research is important because research experience provides motivation to students for learning and helps them pursue their individual interests. Through research, their intellectual curiosity is sparked, and they get the opportunity to take greater ownership of their own learning process.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Seeing students' success or simply making a difference in their lives is most rewarding for me.

Rewards that come from watching a student become a graduate, a professional or a research scientist are beyond comparison. There is nothing more rewarding than watching a student realize their talent and develop a love of learning. It is very fulfilling when I know that I have made even a small contribution to someone's education and future.

What is one of your professional goals?

Even though I have several awards for teaching, research and service as well as for serving the academic community, my professional goals are to keep on developing more resources that will help me be the best professionally. I believe that the best teachers are reflective, always striving to better themselves and their practices.

What do you like to do in your free time?

When not teaching, researching or advising, I enjoy reading books, watching movies and spending time with my family and friends.

Writer: Hannah Harper, harper4@purdue.edu

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