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Faculty Spotlight: Melissa Illingworth

published February 16, 2023Faculty Spotlight: Melissa Illingworth

Melissa Illingworth is an instructor at the HCC Wamego Center teaching chemistry and microbiology. With both parents being medical doctors, she grew up with talk of science around the dinner table. It was not unheard of for an encyclopedia or dictionary to appear during these discussions. Her lifelong interest in science and health led her to Ball State University where she enjoyed her cell biology, biotechnology, and chemistry courses. Her passion for the subject took her to Indiana University where she earned both a master's degree and a PhD in biochemistry while studying protein biochemistry. As part of her studies, she grew bacteria and extracted their proteins to study them. She finds proteins fascinating because of the wide variety of chemistry they can perform.


Although she enjoyed her time in the lab, she pursued a career in teaching. Her desire to work with smaller class sizes and provide hands-on experience led her to leave the large state school she was teaching at in California and make the switch to the community college atmosphere. She has been with HCC for the past four years and her favorite days are when she gets to combine teaching with lab work. Sharon Kibbe, the VP of Academic Affairs, appreciates everything Melissa does for her students, colleagues, and the college. “Dr. Illingworth is an important part of our faculty at HCC. She works hard to keep her science courses current to her discipline and genuinely enjoys introducing students to and supporting them through her courses.”


If you ever have a chance to stop by Melissa’s office, she will be happy to show you the little ecosystem she keeps in there. What may look like just a jar of pond scum to most of us is an amazing world of algae, aquatic snails, and other microorganisms that are perfect for exploring under the microscope in her microbiology class.


This past year she visited the University of Kansas Natural History Museum and loved seeing the specimens and fossils! She enjoys Steven King’s writing, science fiction in general, and recommends Margaret Attwood’s MaddAddam trilogy focused on a modern plague. Her best go-to snack foods are string cheese, crackers, and – of course – chocolate!

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