New science professor, Dr. Zackary Graham, joins the Hilltop this fall


Samantha Lloyd

Biology Professor, Dr. Zackary Graham

There’s a new professor on campus. Well, technically an assistant professor of biology – post doctoral researcher, but you can just call him Dr. Graham.

Dr. Zackary Graham is semi-local having grown up just across the border in Pittsburgh. He attended Steele Valley Highschool and was a star swimmer and volleyball player. After highschool, he stayed in his home state and attended Waynesburg University where he played collegiate tennis for one year.

He then transferred to Penn State Altoona, where he became captain of the men’s volleyball team and graduated with a degree in psychology. While at Penn State Altoona, he was also an undergraduate research assistant in a neuroecology lab and an academic tutor.

Graham then moved to the other side of the country to complete a Ph. D. program at Arizona State University (ASU), one of his proudest accomplishments. He was the first person to complete the program in five years, instead of the typical seven.

While in Arizona, Graham became an expert in animal behavior, specifically crayfish behavior and communication. This expertise allows him to be effective in running the crayfish labs here at WLU; additionally, he teaches biology courses and mentors graduate students.

One of the undergraduate classes Graham co-teaches is field biology, which is a course that allows students to get hands-on experience conducting research projects. Graham’s group of students are studying sexual dimorphism in different species of crayfish. This means the group will attempt to determine identifying characteristics in different types of male and female crayfish.

Graham is also working with graduate students on a crayfish project involving sampling the Susquehanna and Delaware river basins in eastern Pennsylvania for different crayfish species. This allows the group to determine the geographic ranges for these crayfish species and track any changes over time.

Graham is excited to be at West Liberty University. He is happy to see green again outside of his office window instead of the brown, desert landscape of Arizona. He also appreciates that West Liberty is close to his family and has a small campus feeling. Graham said that he had hundreds of students in his classes at Arizona State University, so he is especially looking forward to being able to make connections with his students in a more personalized way than what he experienced at ASU.

Graduate student, Jimmy Krochmal, worked in the field this summer with Graham. Krochmal said he had a great time working with Graham. He also said, “I feel like it’s easy to relate to him, because he was just in my shoes, since he just graduated with his PhD. Honestly, it’s very nice having him around.”

Graham has two major pieces of advice for college students. The first is to “be introspective,” as he put it. By this, he means to suggest that students shouldn’t just go through the motions, but instead look inward and search for what is important to them. He then offers that students should make what is important a goal and set up timelines to help them achieve their goals.

His second piece of advice goes out to those college students struggling to figure out what to do after graduation. He suggests that students should look around at the people they know and see if they would want to be in their shoes. This is what he did. He looked to his professors and realized that he wanted to be a professor as well.