NYMC > News and Events > News Archives

From Madrid to Valhalla to Paris, Christopher J. Pappas, M.S. ’06, Ph.D. ’11, Has a Global Perspective on Teaching and Research

Dr. Pappas will return to campus to moderate the 33rd Annual Graduate Research Forum.

March 09, 2022
Christopher J. Pappas, Ph.D.

Dr. Pappas spent three years in Spain, after deciding to return there after he spent time studying abroad during his senior year at Syracuse University—where he majored in psychology and minored in biology and neuroscience. He taught English classes which he loved but it was not just the city he fell in love with; he also met his future wife as well. Dr. Pappas wanted to achieve more in his professional career and wanted to put himself on a track to be a professor. “I’ve always liked the combination of research and education.”

In 2006, Dr. Pappas got his foot in the door as a graduate research associate in the lab of Ira Schwartz, Ph.D., professor emeritus of microbiology and immunology, where he researched Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Dr. Pappas says he benefited greatly from Dr. Schwartz’s mentorship as they worked with each other throughout the next five years as Dr. Pappas earned his M.S. in 2006 and Ph.D. in 2011, both in microbiology and immunology. “When you pursue a Ph.D., you look for a good mentor. That lab was like family. Everyone in that lab were wonderful people,” Dr. Pappas said.

It was a very rewarding time for Dr. Pappas at the College, but he wanted to take the next step to becoming a professor. After a short time as an adjunct professor of biology at Manhattanville College, he was promoted to assistant professor and director of laboratory safety. “It is a good feeling to positively impact and train the next generation of researchers, help build their foundational knowledge of science and guide their ability to be inquisitive,” Dr. Pappas said.

In 2013, Dr. Pappas received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study Leptospira, the bacteria that causes Leptospirosis, or “Weil’s Disease,” that spreads through infected animal urine and can cause kidney and liver damage in humans. Dr. Pappas focused on how the bacteria survive in water and throughout the enzootic transmission cycle.

Dr. Pappas said his interest in this research was partly because of the global impact of the disease—which is estimated to affect one million people per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Dr. Pappas believes that his time in Paris, when not spent enjoying the many parks in the city with his family, reaffirmed his perspective that it is important to consider issues that affect those in other parts of the world, not just where one lives. “Someone who lives abroad can think globally.” Dr. Pappas said. “We are all connected on this planet and we need to care for each other.”

That perspective is one that he brings along to his students year in and year out, but he also calls upon the sage advice he received from faculty at NYMC. “The professors were open, welcoming and warm,” Dr. Pappas said. “I drew from everyone at NYMC and implemented a combination of what they showed me and what I learned in my experience.”

Now, it is Dr. Pappas being called upon for his expertise. In a full-circle moment, Dr. Pappas was invited to be the moderator of the 33rd annual Graduate Student Research Forum (GSRF) on March 15, an event he routinely partook in as a student, and even helped coordinate as the president of the Graduate Student Association (GSA). “It was touching when the [GSA] reached out to me. I remember as a student thoroughly enjoying the event and the excitement of presenting our research findings to my professors and colleagues” Dr. Pappas said.

Dr. Pappas believes that the GSRF provides crucial support and feedback for students, which he makes sure to give to his current students. “Being able to communicate is one of the most important things we can do. Events such as the GSRF help to positively influence students and prepare them to explain their research to various audiences.” 

Upon his return visit to NYMC, Dr. Pappas reflects on the impactful and cherished times he had at the College. “My time at NYMC was exactly what I needed for my graduate education,” Dr. Pappas said.