Who says biologists only like to sit in their labs doing research? The theory proves wrong with CSUN’s Larry Baresi, a Northridge resident who enjoys cooking, making wines, riding his bike, hiking, traveling and, of course, working with his methanogens.
Methanogens are types of archaea bacteria that can produce methane from the decomposition of organic material.
“I love microbiology,” said Baresi. “I try to give the students the enthusiasm I have for my area and to expand their base.”
“It’s the Italian in me,” he said. Originally from northern Italy, he said he wouldn’t move there due to the cultural difference but would be willing to teach there for a few months.
“The pace of life there is around their priority, different from ours, which is to enjoy life,” he said. “It’s a different flavor.”
Baresi teaches microbiology classes both for the major and as general education classes. Baresi has two sons, with one going through the fire department academy and the other a gourmet chef.
“He is easy going, encourages us to ask questions,” said Karen Koch, 29, a CSUN student getting her Master of Science in biology with Baresi’s research.
Koch said she got to know Baresi when she went to advisement to get information and he encouraged her to take more courses in the field. Currently, Koch is working on constructing a library on methanogen phages and sequencing it.
“This is really cutting edge because methanogens are hard to work with (because they can’t tolerate oxygen) so there aren’t a lot of labs working with it,” said Koch. “I want to finish what I’ve started because people have been unsuccessful in the past, I have to be that one to get it.”
“The biggest appeal is that (Baresi) is enthusiastic about (microbiology),” said Koch. “He expects you to understand the material. You really have to think about it.”
Baresi said he likes different classes at different times. He said he likes the general education classes because he gets to meet different people who will never be biology majors, “but I get to tell them it’s not bad.”
He said it’s particularly good for writers because “there is so much to write about, there is so much information out there,” he said. “Take the words of the professor and turn them into words people can understand.”
Baresi’s education includes a bachelor’s in engineering and master’s in biology from CSUN and a doctorate in public health from UCLA. He worked for Jet Propulsion Laboratories for 14 years, working with methanogen conservation among other projects.
After JPL, Baresi went to UCLA for four years as an associate researcher until a position at CSUN opened up.
Baresi said he wanted to come back to CSUN because he had already gone through the loop and wanted to come back and show the students that there is another area out there, that there is more to pick from.
“My objective is to be the person people can come to,” said Baresi.
Baresi is the advisor for the Microbiologist Student Association, which is a branch of the Southern California American Society for Microbiology. He is responsible for student poster presentations, sets up judging and invitations to academic speakers. Baresi interacts with students and helps organize events.
“He wants you to succeed and think like a scientist,” said Narine Arabyan, 24, who is currently doing research under Baresi. She said she will be coming back next year for her masters and then going for her doctorate, adding “maybe I’ll be a professor like him.”
Arabyan said she is working with rumen samples, separating them from methanogens, to “isolate our organism from [the rumen tissue] and the viruses.”
“He’s not the type of professor who follows the book and just memorize,” said Elizabeth Czornyj, 24, a microbiology major. “He always says there is no wrong answer as long as you can prove it.”
“Our research is to isolate everything else from the rumen besides methanogens to see if the can inhabit,” said Czornyj. “The sort of stuff we are doing, no one but the professor has done it before. This is different. We can contribute and be helpful.”
“He is always looking for student input,” said Koch. “He has his hands in lots of different things.”