From a passion for learning to a passion for teaching
ASU president’s professor Mike Angilletta developed an interest in snakes at the age of 12 after catching one at a Boy Scouts trip. He wasn’t allowed to keep a snake as a pet, but that didn’t stop his passion from growing. His interests evolved into a curiosity about all animals and how they interact with changes in their environment.
As a college student, he was in awe of professors who made careers out of their passions. Realizing pre-law and political science weren’t for him, he changed his major to biology. He landed in a class with a professor who studied snakes, in addition to teaching, and Angilletta was enthralled. Determined to find out how this professor landed a job studying a topic he’s passionate about, he got to know him in and outside of class and participated in his research.
When Angilletta graduated, his professor-turned-mentor gave him this advice: “You need to get a PhD, you become a professor and you can do this for a living." Although teaching in higher education wasn’t his initial goal, this is exactly what he did. Fast forward to 2022, Angilletta continues to advance research in his interest areas and mentor the next generation of scientists studying through ASU Online.
Watch to learn more about Angilletta’s background and career:
Faculty research spotlight
Although snakes have a soft spot in his heart, Angilletta’s research interests have refined over time. Now he focuses on ecology, including how organisms “make a living doing what they’re doing in strange environments,” as he put it. As an ASU faculty member, he also studies the different ways animals adapt to temperature changes within their environment.
When asked about his research experiences, Angilletta points to fieldwork he’s completed around leafcutter ants in Sao Paulo, Brazil. He shared that the city was an ideal place to conduct temperature-related research on the ants because the five to 10 degree heat increase in the city creates a different environment than the surrounding natural habitat. His team wanted to know if the increased temperature in the city created negative effects for the ants and how they coped with an unfamiliar environment.
Angilletta’s research team found that colonies of leafcutter ants found inside the city tolerated heat better than their counterparts living in the cooler, surrounding environment. They concluded that “[the ants] either acclimated or adapted over time to the conditions that are caused by being in Sao Paulo.”
Why Angilletta chose to teach and research at ASU
When asked why he chose to teach and research at ASU, Angilletta pointed to innovation. He said, “There's this buzz about being at ASU. There's this excitement of staying on the edge of things, innovating and doing things differently, thinking about how we could do things differently to improve higher education.” He also explained that he enjoys teaching at a university that encourages trying new methods and exploring new spaces of education, particularly with delivering science education through ASU Online.
Lab experiences that immerse you in hands-on science learning
As an ASU Online learner, your science education goes beyond reading a book or taking an exam. Whether attending ASU on a physical campus or online, it’s important that you learn through immersive lab experiences. The various ways you may complete labs include:
- At-home lab experiment kits.
- Computer simulations.
- In-person lab experiences during the summer.
- Virtual reality through Dreamscape Learn.
Brought to you by collaboration between ASU and Dreamscape Immersive, Dreamscape Learn incorporates 2D and 3D virtual reality experiences into your lab courses. These dynamic virtual experiences encourage you to explore pressing questions that can lead to scientific discovery.
How can I turn my passion into a career?
There are many ways to land your dream job. You may obtain a doctorate degree like Angilletta, or you can take a completely new path. As an ASU Online student, you have access to renowned faculty who’ve all taken their own journeys to success.
Angilletta said, “ASU is incredibly innovative in their approach to online.” However, it’s ASU faculty like him whose stories prove that your educational and career goals are attainable. Ask questions, form relationships, express your ideas, attend virtual office hours and stay curious.