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Fighter on Two Fronts

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Scott Falke earns Alumni Achievement Award

Scott Falke is fighting to keep America safe on two fronts: the battlefield, and the biology lab.

Falke is a 1998 graduate of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. As an associate professor of biology at William Jewell College, Falke participates with faculty from UMKC and other schools in a collaborative research team studying anthrax toxin – work that could lead to a human vaccine. As a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve, he was called to active duty in Afghanistan during 2010-2011, where he earned a Bronze Star for his service.

His exceptional service to community and country led UMKC to name him as the 2013 Alumni Achievement Award recipient for the School of Biological Sciences.

“My vision involves service in the broadest sense,” Falke said.  “As a mentor, I am in service to young folks.  As a soldier, I am in service to the citizens of the United States. As a teacher, I am in service to students. As a father, I am in service to my daughter. As a husband, I am in service to my wife.

“The best leaders are those that care about those they lead,” Falke added. “Those leaders form great teams, and a great leader is only as good as his team.”

His desire to be a positive influence on students and a diligent team member stems in part from the positive influences his UMKC professors had on him.

“It was the close interaction with my research mentor, Dr. Ed Gogol, and later with Dr. Gerry Carlson (the Division Chair) that paved the way for me and made me realize my potential,” Falke said. “I nearly flunked out of high school, but working in protein structure and function research gave me the confidence that ‘I could hang’; Dr. Gogol taught me how to be successful as a graduate student. Ed encouraged me to give research presentations, and taught me valuable skills in the lab.

“These skills were imperative to being a successful graduate student. Gerry was constantly encouraging me, taking time to stop and talk to me when our paths crossed … he took the time to be interested in me.  That is leadership and mentoring – taking time out of your life in order to positively impact the lives of others.”

At William Jewell, Falke has studied the structures of various proteins, including anthrax toxin, using cryo-electron microscopy.  His collaborative research and enthusiasm for working with undergraduate students earned him William Jewell College’s coveted Spencer Family Sabbatical Fellowship for 2009-2010, a highly competitive research opportunity open to all William Jewell faculty. His fellowship was cut short, however, when he was called to active duty by the Army.

In addition to a heavy teaching schedule, Falke has published several articles and has given national presentations on his research.  He serves as vice president of the Missouri Branch of the American Society for Microbiology and sits on several committees at William Jewell, including the Curriculum, Education and Policy Committee and the Honors Committee. He also served on the Leadership Committee for the college’s Village Partners Honduras Project. As faculty advisor to the Sigma Nu fraternity at Jewell, he earned the Administrator of the Year award for 2006-2007.

“I just want to do as much good as I can while I am still able to do so,” Falke said. “As a professional, my job is interdisciplinary so I can pretty much do anything that interests me. We only have about 50 really productive years in our lives; I want to impact positively as many students as I can in that time.  One thing that keeps me going is watching my students become successful.”

Falke’s advice to today’s students is simple.

“Find something you love to do, and just do it. If you care about what you are doing, you will be good at it,” he said. “Leadership is about caring deeply for those in your team … when those you lead know that you are focused on their happiness, their career, their success, they will follow you through a firefight and never ask why.”


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