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 intraoperative neuromonitoring 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
"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 1997.
"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 his position.
"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,"
He admitted it felt like
he never left, having maintained his Carlow relationship since
geographically, but I remained engaged," he said.
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 Ammer's leadership.
"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,"
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
By Ann Lyon Ritchie