Rekha Singh, MD, PhD, associate professor of biological sciences at American International College, brings more than a formidable intellect and expertise to the classroom. Her academic credentials, body of research, publishing history, and professional and pedagogical experiences rival that of any elite scholar.
Dr. Singh teaches two semesters of human anatomy and physiology to health sciences majors including nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, sports and recreation management, exercise science, and human biology. She also teaches pathophysiology to the human biology majors.
She received her medical degree and training in India at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospitals, University of Rajasthan. She was a resident surgeon and a medical officer in obstetrics and gynecology at Kamala Nehru Memorial Hospital, University of Allahabad. When her husband received a fellowship to earn his PhD in engineering, the couple moved to Canada, and had their first child there.
After earning a master’s in clinical pathology specializing in breast cancer research from the University of Manitoba Medical School, Dr. Singh worked on breast cancer biopsies and developed a novel PCR technique to quantitate c-myc and ER genes in breast cancer tissues.
She earned a PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of Ottawa Children’s Hospital, where she studied and performed research on cellular immune responses to herpes virus infections, investigating the host immune responses to genital herpes and cytomegalovirus infections. When her husband’s career took them to California’s Silicon Valley in the midst of her doctoral work, Dr. Singh continued her PhD research project as a visiting doctoral student and a postgraduate researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. She published a number of research articles in refereed journals from her doctoral research, and it was while they were living on the west coast that Dr. Singh gave birth to their second child.
When the family moved to the Northeast, Dr. Singh became a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, in the Center of Infectious Diseases and Vaccine Research. She worked in the area of cell immunity and vaccine development for West Nile, yellow fever, and Japanese encephalitis flaviviruses and published the findings in the journal of infectious diseases in 2010.
While working at UMass Medical Center, in 2007 Dr. Singh received an opportunity to teach at Assumption College where she developed an interest in college teaching. She also taught as visiting assistant professor at Clark University, Bridgewater State University, Framingham State University, and Simmons College before joining AIC as a tenure track assistant professor in 2011.
Dr. Singh has an encyclopedic knowledge in her fields of study and an unstoppable drive to continue learning and sharing information. What distinguishes her, however, beyond her scholarly accomplishments, is her genuine devotion to students. Her fierce intelligence is matched by a remarkable graciousness of spirit, a warmth and compassion you can see in her eyes and hear in her voice. In fact, any students fortunate enough to have her as a professor can see and hear the respect and affection she has for them. Though Dr. Singh has more than 100 new students each semester, she learns everyone’s name because she knows that addressing her students by name makes them feel cared for.
“In a few weeks, I know all my students’ names so they have a sense of belonging in the class,” she said. “I not only remember my current students but also my former students’ name. If God has blessed me with this kind of memory, why not use it?”
Dr. Singh’s entire approach to life has a wholeheartedness to it, a natural humility and gentle good humor. “I believe that whatever you do, if you do it with full devotion and sincerity, you will enjoy it. If you try half-heartedly, you will be more frustrated. I loved when I was practicing medicine and sometimes I miss working as a doctor. But I am happy in my present job, too. I tell students who are worried about exams and grades to focus on the course work and learning. Don’t say ‘what if I can’t do it’ or ‘what if I don’t pass.’ Just the way I was determined to complete my PhD, if you are focused and determined, no one can stop you from achieving your goals.”
One of Dr. Singh’s goals is to continue her research projects at AIC working closely with students. “My students have performed experimental research on the antibacterial properties of common spices and the effect of plant flavonoids on the prostate cancer cell line. They also participate in the poster presentations at AIC’s annual Undergraduate Research Symposium and Eastern New England Biological Conference in Boston.”
When Dr. Singh isn’t giving a lecture, busy in the lab or meeting with students, she helps at a food pantry serving elderly and low-income families as part of the community supper program. She sits on her town’s board of health, supports her parish’s Sunday school activities, and contributes to charitable organizations that provide education to orphans in India. She also likes traveling to new places, going for walks with her family, watching sports, and listening to music. When asked what inspires her, she replied, “My family and my faith in God inspire me. My father taught us that we should have patience with everyone and everything, and that we should learn how to be good listeners. Just as it is in medicine, patience and listening are so important in teaching. We have to listen to our students to find out what they really need and what would be most beneficial for them. My family also keeps me motivated to do my job with compassion and dedication.”
One of Dr. Singh’s favorite quotes is from motivational speaker Roger Crawford: Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional. “I love the limitless opportunity I have here at AIC to teach students from such diverse backgrounds,” said Dr. Singh. “Some of them are first-generation college students, and many of them have to work to pay for their education. I believe it is the prime responsibility of the professors to share their knowledge and experience with complete dedication and compassion so that the students can have a good career and a bright future for themselves and their families.”
-By Ellen Dooley
Photo Credit: Seth Kaye