Centenary biology department welcomes two new faculty members

Dr. Anna Leal (left) and Dr. Matthew Jennings (right)

SHREVEPORT, LA — Dr. Matthew Jennings and Dr. Anna Leal have joined the Centenary College faculty this fall as assistant professors of biology. Jennings will teach courses in microbiology while Leal will teach anatomy.

“Our department is excited about the expertise our new faculty bring to Centenary,” says Dr. Rebecca Murphy, chair of the department of biology. “Their commitment to engaging classes in the most up to date science will help keep students directly connected to the most current scientific and public health challenges we face as a community.”

Jennings received his Ph.D. in biological sciences from the University of Arkansas and has held postdoctoral research appointments at the University of Illinois and the University of Akron. He has taught courses in general biology, cell biology, and microbiology at the University of Akron, University of Arkansas, and Villanova University, and has collaborated on numerous publications and conference presentations in the field. Jennings will teach courses in microbiology and immunology at Centenary, and plans to add a course in microbial diversity as well as courses examining SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19.

“I want to convey to students the vast expanse of microbial life, and all various metabolisms that have evolved to eke out an existence in all corners of the world,” says Jennings. “I plan on establishing a research program, and I hope to employ students in my lab to participate in the research. This is a great opportunity for students who wish to attend graduate school or are interested in a research career. Students will be able to employ various microbiology and molecular biology techniques while working in my lab.”

Jennings’s current research focuses on microbial physiology and metabolism and investigates the mechanisms underlying Microbially Induced Calcite Precipitation (MICP), where microbes facilitate the formation of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) or calcite. The goal is to understand the metabolism and genetics underlying this phenomenon to engineer a strain with a higher calcification phenotype, and he ultimately hopes to develop these strains as a carbon capture technology to help combat climate change.

Leal earned a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and has taught a wide range of courses including anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology, exercise nutrition, personal and community health, and wellness. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Heart & Vascular Institute at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and has served as an assistant professor at Berry College and Bridgewater College. Leal has been the principal investigator on several research studies and is co-author on a host of articles and abstracts centered on cardiovascular health.

In addition to teaching courses in anatomy and physiology, Leal plans to add courses in medical terminology, research methods, exercise physiology, and community health to Centenary’s offerings.

“I am excited to be joining the Biology Department at Centenary and am looking forward to teaching our future health professionals,” says Leal. “One of my goals is to increase and promote diversity in biology education by incorporating inclusive research studies, clinical trials, and current events into my course curriculums. I also enjoy involving students in exercise physiology and physical activity epidemiology research.”


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