New Department Head, Frank Ammer, PhD, Talks about Growth and Change
The Biology Department has two new areas of study: the BS to MS in cardiovascular perfusion degree and the intraoperativeneuromonitoring program. Both areas tout highly attractive job
prospects and will prepare graduates to hit the ground running in
the workplace. Perfusionists monitor the heart and circulatory
system of a patient undergoing surgery, while surgical
neurophysiologists monitor the nervous system during brain and
spinal cord operations.
Frank Ammer, PhD '97 launched the new programs in
2017, the first year he headed up the Biology Department at Carlow.
His work is quite different from 25 years ago, when getting "under
the hood" of a patient was a literal statement for Ammer, who
worked as a body shop mechanic for a local automotive
"I woke up one day and said to myself, 'I don't want
to do that anymore'," Ammer said.
A U.S. Army veteran and an adult learner, Ammer
jumpstarted a career change at age 30 by studying biology at the
Community College of Allegheny County. Next, in a search for a
four-year school, he applied and was accepted to multiple
universities, but chose Carlow and earned his bachelor's degree in
"I liked the small class size and the interaction with
faculty. I liked that I was not just a number, but I had a name at
Carlow," he said.
He then received his MS in Biology from Clarion
University. He kept in touch with his mentor at Carlow, former
department head Michael Capp, PhD. Capp served on Ammer's
dissertation committee and was an assigning member of his PhD at
West Virgina University. In 2003, Ammer began teaching wildlife
biology at Frostburg State University.
Ammer was approaching his 15th anniversary teaching at
Frostburg when Capp gave him a call letting him know he was leaving
"Carlow is the only university for which I would have
left my past position. I was not actively looking for a job, but
Dr. Capp encouraged me to apply," Ammer said.
He admitted it felt like he never left, having
maintained his Carlow relationship since 1997.
"I relocated geographically, but I remained engaged,"
From the start, Ammer was charged with growing the
department, and he did.
Biology is the second-largest Carlow major after
nursing. In the fall of 2018, biology attracted more majors than
nursing for the first time, with 76 new students. The department
added a new faculty member and is interviewing for two more.
It seems the Biology Department will benefit from
"One thing we do very well here at Carlow: We care
about our students. We're willing to work with them, and we're
willing to help them succeed in their majors," he said.
Setting goals and setting his mind to them are two of
Ammer's strengths. The Biology Department that mentored a car
mechanic and changed his life decades ago will guide the next
biology majors toward a bright future.
this story originally appeared in the Fall 2018 edition of Carlow Magazine