Faculty Profile: Narayan Sharma

Narayan Sharma with studentsFamily man. Researcher. Teacher.

Each of these words could be used to describe Narayan Sharma, assistant professor of biochemistry. If you ask Sharma himself, though, he likes to use one term in particular: lifelong learner.

“I came from Nepal where I was a high school teacher, but I always like to gain new knowledge. I’m a curious person and I wanted to see how the U.S. education system worked.”

That curiosity and passion for learning is what brought him to the U.S. and earned him a Ph.D. from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. It’s that same curiosity that also led him from an interest in the environment to one in chemistry and, as Sharma explains, they are both very much rooted in the molecular level. From there, his constant desire to learn fostered an ongoing interest in the chemical field—one that he now helps to grow at SUNY Poly.

“I want to see a very robust biology program here so that students who come out of our program are well-rounded and can take on the challenges of our society, whether it be in the medical field, the environmental field or in making new materials that are needed. I want to see all this be very useful to them.”

The biochemistry program at SUNY Poly started when Sharma joined the faculty in fall 2011, and he has been involved in all levels of the courses: Chemistry I, Chemistry II and Organic Chemistry, which he considers a very advanced but very useful course.

“It is widely applicable,” he says. “People who want to go into medicine, biochemistry, they have to understand chemistry as well.”

His specialty is enzymes and how they function. When we suffer from a disease, he explains, sometimes the enzymes in our bodies are over or under active. Understanding them allows for the development of better drugs that can help people.

“That excites me a lot,” he says. “Chemistry has a very different language than anything else we have here at SUNY Poly. I expect students to understand that language. We’re talking about things on a very small, nanoscale. Everything works at the molecular level, whether it be biology, physics, etc. The foundations of our health and disease are rooted at those small levels.”

Before coming to SUNY Poly, Sharma spent four years in a postdoctoral research position at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“I also did some teaching, but my major focus was on research,” he said. “With research, you’re trying to find a solution to a problem. It’s completely different from teaching, but you can apply those skills to teaching. When it comes to teaching, you’re building a foundation. You’re giving students all the knowledge from which to build upon and get more specific.”

He says that what he finds most exciting about teaching is his students and what they take away from his lessons.

“My focus is to make each student a different person by the time they leave my class, whether that be a new skill or better understanding of the knowledge.”

Sharma hopes that aside from the knowledge of chemistry, students in his classes walk away with something else. Something they can take with them well beyond the college experience.

“Life lessons,” he says. “How to perform an experiment, the precursors to take. There are skills needed for laboratory lessons which can then be applied to life as well.”

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