Skip to main content

About Carthage

5 Minutes with Steven Henle

Take a peek inside Prof. Henle’s office on Instagram!

Click the arrows to move to the next photo.

Department: Neuroscience
Title: Assistant Professor
Best Office Artifact: Millennium Falcon mold

While studying as an undergrad, Carthage neuroscience professor Steven Henle realized just how complex the brain is. It was at that point he started down a path that led him to discover his life’s passion. Today he strives to provide Carthage students with the same skill and passion for research that he acquired throughout his education. 

Professor Henle received a Ph.D. in Molecular Neuroscience from the Mayo Graduate School before going on to complete postdoctoral fellowships at the Harvard Medical School and the Medical College of Wisconsin. 

We spoke with Professor Henle about his extensive research into zebrafish cells, his journey to Carthage, and hobbies outside of the lab. 

How did you become interested in Neuroscience? 
“I can’t pinpoint an event, but I was studying biology and chemistry in college and just had a realization. I realized that everything I was learning about at the molecular scale also controls what we think, like, and remember. How the brain worked at the smallest scale just seemed so unknown, and I wanted to know more.”

 

• • •

“The further along I went in my career, the more I realized that I wanted to be involved in teaching undergraduates at an institution that really cared about teaching…”

• • •

 

What was your journey to becoming a professor at Carthage like? Why did you choose Carthage?
“I went to a small liberal arts college in Minnesota (St. John’s University) and graduated not knowing exactly if I wanted to focus on research or teaching. However, I knew I was really passionate about science, and in particular neuroscience, so I went to grad school at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for molecular neuroscience. I worked on studying spinal cord development and regeneration in frogs. I then went to Harvard Medical School for a postdoctoral fellowship studying the genetics of eye development in mice and then to another fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin studying mostly what I work on now. The further along I went in my career, the more I realized that I wanted to be involved in teaching undergraduates at an institution that really cared about teaching, as well as a place that would still let me do some research. I applied to several schools, but Carthage was very appealing because I had already begun teaching here at night, so I knew the students and faculty were great.”

What were some unexpected paths that you took in your career so far? 
“After grad school, I was applying for fellowships and had sort of accepted a position only to find out a bit later that the funding for the position had been taken away. It turned out that the funding came from someone who made a lot of money in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme. Since we had already planned to move to Boston at this point, I had to scramble to find another position and ended up applying to a lab I didn’t really know. In the end, though, that lab was great and I loved my time there.”

At Carthage, you have been interested in studying zebrafish. Could you explain a little bit about your research into the fish and what you are hoping to accomplish or discover? 
“I study how the zebrafish eye develops and regenerates. The fish are transparent when young, so we can see inside as they develop. I use a lot of microscopy techniques to do this, and I am trying to develop new techniques to see into the cells of the eye as they develop. Also, the fish can regenerate their eyes after injury, but humans can’t and I want to know what’s different. I’m hoping that maybe this can help figure out how to restore sight. Maybe if we can make our eyes a bit more like fish eyes, they will be able to regenerate.”

 

• • •

“Collecting data and advancing our understanding of the science is important, but I think the real value is that it lets students start doing real work while experiencing real problems and overcoming them.”

• • •

 

As a 2019 SURE faculty mentor, what value do you see in the Program’s faculty-mentored undergraduate research for Carthage students? What do you hope they take away from working with you? 
“Collecting data and advancing our understanding of the science is important, but I think the real value is that it lets students start doing real work while experiencing real problems and overcoming them. I hope, in particular, that they understand that just because they don’t know how to do something doesn’t mean they can’t do it, even if no one else has ever done it before.”

How have you pushed students beyond their comfort zones?
“In classes, students tend to work on projects that tend to have a pretty straight path from beginning to end. When working with research students, and especially in SURE, I make sure to give them projects that are less well-defined so they have to create their own path. I think most students don’t know how capable they are yet, so this is a bit uncomfortable and frustrating. However, getting past these difficult points on their own can really boost a student’s confidence.”

What are some hobbies or interests you have that may be surprising to students?
“I enjoy photography, but the students who know how much I like microscopy won’t be surprised. Although I don’t have much time for them right now, I enjoy video games and have a decent collection of older games. Also, to completely out myself as a nerd, I enjoy playing D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) with my family when we get together.”

What is your favorite class to teach?
“Since I’m still pretty new I haven’t had a chance to teach that many different courses, but I have really enjoyed teaching both the intro biology course (Molecules, Cells, and Organisms or Phage Hunters) and Intro to Behavioral Neuroscience. I have spent so many years diving deep into specific fields that getting to look at the big picture of these topics is a breath of fresh air.”

What advice do you have for new or prospective students interested in neuroscience? Anything you wish you would have known as an undergrad? 
“The brain is complicated, like really complicated. There are always debates about if we are physically able to understand how our own brain works. So if you really want to understand the brain, you will probably need to use the tools of math, statistics, and computer science. If you know something about psychology, biology, and have those analytical tools, you can do a lot, and quite a few opportunities will be open to you.”

— Interview by Madeline Paakkonen ’21, Photos by Jenna Link ’22

 

  • Quick Facts

    • Carthage is named a Best Midwestern College by The Princeton Review (2020), a designation given to only 25 percent of four-year schools.

    • The Tower, Carthage’s newest residence hall, provides some of the best views on campus — if not in the Midwest! In addition to #carthageviews of the lake from seven stories up, residents enjoy suite-style living and two floors of shared campus spaces for gaming, cooking, group meetings, or quiet studying. Learn more about all housing options.

    • You’re going to need brain fuel. Grab a morning coffee and a snack and Starbucks or Einstein Bros. Bagels. Later, meet friends at “The Caf,” where the specials change daily but the staples are constant, or swing through “The Stu” for wings, a burrito, or a sub. A new option, Carthage Cash, even covers some off-campus meals.

    • More than 90% of Carthage alumni report that they have secured a job or are continuing their studies six months after graduation. Visit Career Services.

    • 91% of employers say critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills matter more than your major when it comes to career success. Learn more about how the liberal arts prepare you for a successful career.

    • Lots of schools wear the four-year label. Carthage stands behind it. More than 90% of Carthage graduates earn their degrees in four years. Learn more

    • Oscars. Emmys. Tonys. Golden Globes. The playwrights we’ve brought in have them. Each year, the Carthage Theatre Department commissions an original script by a renowned playwright for its New Play Initiative. Carthage students then work with the writer to stage it. 

    • Carthage has been named a top producer of Fulbright Fellows three years running. Read about Carthage Fulbright winners.

    • Things look new at Carthage because they are. Our science center, student union, athletic and recreation center, and numerous residence halls have all been constructed or newly renovated in the last 15 years.

    • Carthage offers majors, minors and concentrations in more than 50 areas of study, from archaeology to neuroscience, nursing to music theatre.

    • Our Summer Undergraduate Research Experience offers select students a research budget, one-on-one mentoring with a professor, and 10 weeks of analyzing, deciphering — and getting paid.

    • So the lake is kind of a focal point, but there’s a lot more to love about our campus — like the fact that our more than 80-acre campus is also an arboretum and wildlife sanctuary. Focused on keeping campus lush forever, we plant between 50 and 75 new trees every year from a variety of species.

    • Carthage was founded in 1847. That’s more than 170 years of leaders, makers, and go-getters going out and going forth. Read more about Carthage’s rich history.

    • Our athletes rank up some impressive stats. So does our fitness center. The N. E. Tarble Athletic and Recreation Center (better known as the TARC), is home to a 16-lane swimming pool, 200-meter indoor track, two racquetball courts, an indoor rock climbing wall, and a 5,000-square-foot fitness center.

    • Carthage fields 24 NCAA Division III sports, including basketball, football, lacrosse, volleyball, and water polo. Our varsity teams play in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin — regularly taking home hardware from one of the nation’s toughest Division III conferences.

    • More than 90 percent of students receive financial aid. Carthage awards more than $20 million in scholarship and grant assistance. That includes $5.5 million in competitive scholarships in business, mathematics, science, languages, the fine arts, leadership, and overall academic strength. Learn what’s available.

    • Abraham Lincoln was an early Trustee of the College, and U.S. Secretary of State John Hay was a Carthage alum. The two still have a proud place on our campus. Spend some time with them in our Sesquicentennial Plaza. On warm days you’ll find professors leading their classes here.

    • Come to Carthage; hear yourself think — think … think …
      Legend has it that Sesquicentennial Plaza holds a perfect echo. Just stand with both your feet on the “1847,” face Straz, and start talking. “You’re the only one who can hear you, but you’ll be crystal clear,” promises English and theatre alumna Mikaley Osley.

    • Our Great Lake provides Carthage students with some amazing views. Think classes on the beach, lake views from the lab, and sunrises from your dorm room. “I love waking up in the morning with the sun shining off the lake. Nothing compares to the view in the morning,” recalls biology and neuroscience major Ann O’Leary.

    • Carthage awards up to 35 Presidential Scholarships each year, which range from $20,000 up to full tuition. Learn more.

    • For a full decade, NASA has selected Carthage students to conduct research aboard its zero-gravity aircraft. Lately, the stakes have risen. A team of underclassmen is grinding to prepare a tiny but powerful Earth-imaging satellite for launch to the International Space Station. Learn more about the space sciences at Carthage

    • Carthage is the only college or university in the Midwest where every freshman takes a full-year sequence of foundational texts of the Western intellectual tradition. Learn about the Carthage core.

    • With a student-faculty ratio of 12:1, your professors will know who you are. They will also know who you want to be — and how to get you there. Meet our faculty.

    • There are more than 120 student organizations on campus, from Amnesty International to Fencing to Frisbee, Chem Club to Stand Up Comedy. See how easy it is to get involved.

    • True story: There are more than 27 art galleries, a dozen museums, and nine theatres within 25 miles of Carthage. Some highlights: The nationally recognized Racine Art Museum, the world-renowned Art Institute of Chicago, and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Learn more about our location.

    • What’s better than one professor? Two professors. What’s better than two professors? Two professors from totally different fields teaching a single class. There’s debate. Discussion. Differing perspectives. This is where the magic happens. That’s why every student takes a Carthage Symposium.

    • You can’t hide here — not with only 17 other students in the classroom with you. That’s going to be rough some mornings. But later, when you’re able to argue your point of view thoughtfully, express your opinions succinctly, and meet challenges head-on, without fear … Yep, you’ll thank us.

    • Carthage is ranked No. 5 in the country for student participation in short-term study abroad. Every J-Term, hundreds of students travel all over the world on faculty-led study tours. Imagine a month in Sweden, Rome, Cuba, Senegal, India, Japan …

    Previous
    Next