As Associate Director of our Curriculum, Dr. Aldo Rustioni has many roles and responsibilities. In addition to his determined work ethic, his diverse background makes having him as a part of the Curriculum an even greater privilege. We had the opportunity of speaking with Dr. Rustioni about his experiences, as well as his thoughts on the Curriculum.
NBIO: Not only do you grace the Curriculum with your scientific knowledge, you also diversify it by bringing your worldly expertise. Can you tell us a bit about your background outside of the US?
AR: I was indeed privileged to get acquainted with different cultures by growing up in Italy where I was trained for a career in neurology. When I found out that neurology, as a medical specialty, did not shed any new lights, at least at that time, on how the brain might function, I left Italy and the clinical profession for research in the laboratory of Hans Kuypers, a pupil of the celebrated neuroanatomist Walle Nauta. They were both Dutch, but Walle was at M.I.T. and Hans had just returned (1968) to Rotterdam from the U.S.A. to be a professor in the newly established Erasmus Universiteit. While officially in Holland I took also a sabbatical to work in Paris with Constantino Sotelo, who was very proud of coming from the country of Santiago Ramon y Cajal. I came to Chapel Hill at the very end of 1973.
NBIO: Several improvements have been made to the Curriculum since you became Associate Director. Can you speak briefly on these changes? How do you feel the Curriculum has improved in recent years?
AR: It is a great privilege to work for the Neurobiology Curriculum: it is one of the first such Curricula in the country; it was founded by Ed Glassman and John Wilson, both in Biochemistry, then taken over by Ed Perl. Everyone who, in the past, led the Neurobiology Curriculum was a distinguished neurobiologist, and added significantly to the success of the Curriculum. It is now a very special, and auspicious, opportunity for the Curriculum to prosper since its Director, Dr. Snider, is also the Director of the Neuroscience Center.
NBIO: In what ways do you interact with students in the Curriculum? (i.e. are you teaching courses, etc)
AR: The interaction with the students is what makes my work for the Curriculum most rewarding. I used to give classes but now I do not. Most of the work is "behind the scenes", though, and students may hardly be aware of how much needs to be done for the smooth operation of the Curriculum. A recent example is the amount of work that went into the self-study for the Graduate School. There was, though, a genuinely good response from faculty and students whenever asked to contribute information for the self-study.
NBIO: What is your most memorable experience during your time as associate director of the Curriculum?
AR: Everytime a student graduates is a "memorable' experience. But smaller events are quite memorable as well. Let's not forget that equally memorable is also working on a regular basis with Dr. Snider who is such an accomplished neurologist, scientist, mentor and teacher and with the staff of the Curriculum, particularly our Administrative Assistant, Denise, who is so dedicated and always on top of things.