Faculty Spotlight!

Joy Goto, Professor and Department Chair

Joy GotoJoy was born and raised in Fresno, California. She earned a B.S. in Chemistry from UC Davis and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from UCLA. She is the recipient of the UCLA Alumni Association distinguished dissertation year award and a Collegium of University Teaching fellowship. She was a John Douglas French Alzheimer’s Foundation research fellow at Harvard Medical School and a Beckman Senior Research Fellow in the Neurosciences Division at the City of Hope.

She has mentored and trained 40 undergraduates and 15 graduate students in her research laboratory. She has co-authored 10 peer-reviewed publications, including seven with her students. Many of these students have gone on to work in the biotech industry, and to attend Ph.D. programs, or medical, dental or pharmacy school. Dr. Goto uses her training in bioinorganic chemistry and neuroscience to contribute to the understanding of neurodegenerative diseases, oxidative stress and metal homeostasis. Her research is supported by University and College grants, including co-authored grants from the NIH, NSF, USDA, and private foundations totaling ~$3.5 million.

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She was awarded the 2016 Fresno State Women’s Association Faculty Leadership Award and was a 2017 Fresno State Talks – Discovery speaker, by student nomination. She has served on the President’s Commission on Human Relations and Equity (PCHRE) and is a Fresno State representative for the CSU Asian American and Pacific Islander Initiative.

What was your childhood dream? My childhood dream was to become a ballerina/gymnast/ice-skater, a pharmacist, or a veterinarian. Ultimately, my dream in college was to become a scientist and to explore and attempt to solve complex problems in health and human disease; I also wanted to travel the world.

What lead you to choose your field and what has made the biggest impact on my career? I always had teachers and mentors that encouraged and challenged me, and this lead to the self-realization that I was capable of achieving more than I thought I was capable of achieving. Teachers and my parents and two big brothers taught me to strive. They really had a strong ethos of education that inspired me to want to stay in academia, especially where I could balance teaching, research and service (not all at once but throughout my career). A university campus is vibrant, constantly changing and growing, and is an environment that I love to be in especially because I love learning and I truly enjoy teaching and mentoring students.

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I became a chemist because I initially loved watching how you could see a chemical reaction (e.g. rust precipitating on a nail, baking soda and vinegar making a penny shine, fireworks colors) and how I could learn how to control something that initially seemed like a spontaneous phenomenon. There are principles in chemistry that guide how reactions and especially those in biochemistry can move forward. I just had so much fun with learning how to set-up experiments, how to tinker and troubleshoot, and how I could talk to other scientists at scientific meetings all over the world. All of these experiences eventually converged in wanting to become a scientist/faculty at an academic institution.

What is your favorite thing about Fresno State? I love the spirit of our campus and especially the students, faculty and staff in my home Department of Chemistry.

What is one teaching tip you would like to share with your colleagues or your younger self?
The one tip: Design activities to teach students how to learn and to develop complex critical thinking skills (i.e. don’t be the sage on the stage, but the guide on the side).

When I was a first year graduate student I was a teaching associate (TA) to 25-30 eager first-year UCLA science undergraduates taking their first general chemistry course. I did every single problem in the textbook to make sure I was prepared to teach the course. This extra work helped build my confidence to stand up in front of a group of eager students during a one-hour discussion section. The take home lesson is that while I was prepared to answer questions, this format did nothing to actually prepare the students how to hone their own skills solving problems or more importantly, developing and thinking on their own. It was good that I had literally done my homework, but I now realize that teaching is a process for the instructor just as much as it is for the students.

How has the Center for Faculty Excellence (CFE) helped to better your teaching and learning to engage students for success?
I have attended seminars and workshops since my first years as a tenure-track faculty and still do. My understanding of pedagogy, scientific pedagogy has grown and developed and my natural tendency to be a life-long learner of teaching is sated. I have participated in FLCs, DISCOVERe, eScholar and a majority of the professional development (PD) opportunities offered by the CFE, and I will continue to participate.

The CFE has also been a great place to converse, gain support, and learn from fellow faculty and staff in all areas of our campus. I want to thank our CFE Instructional Designers (ID): Sue Yang, Mary Bennett, and JoLynne Blake; they are some of the best instructors on campus. They have made significant contributions to facilitating my learning environment in the CFE, as a faculty-student in the various workshops and PD opportunities throughout my time at Fresno State.