Maxellende Ezin Brings Her Love of Biology to the Classroom

Developmental biologist Maxellende “Max” Ezin joined Loyola Marymount University as an assistant professor in the Department of Biology. An expert in embryology, Ezin will continue her years-long research on how the heart develops while sharing her passion for biology with students.

“All of biology is amazing and beautiful,” said Ezin.

Ezin’s appointment marks her second stint in Los Angeles. Ezin attended Spelman College in Atlanta, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology, and then received her Ph.D. in developmental biology from the University of Virginia in 2002. She performed postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology.

After completing postdoctoral work, Ezin taught at Berea College in Kentucky and Eastern Kentucky University. She says she is delighted to find herself living near a beach again and praises the opportunities afforded to her as an LMU faculty member.

“Because LMU is a Jesuit institution, I was really quite attracted to it. I’m Catholic, and I always wanted to find a Jesuit Bible study program,” said Ezin. “I don’t want to stop growing as a person. That is one of my pastimes. My hobby is to learn.”

Ezin’s father was a mathematics professor and her mother, an accountant, encouraged her love of learning. “When I was a child, we’d have all of these scientists visiting, and we’d have these huge meals,” said Ezin. “We were pushed and expected to ask questions. I knew I wanted to do research from very early on.”

Ezin discovered her passion for imaging growing embryos as a graduate student while using time-lapse imaging to study the developing nervous system. Today, her work focuses on understanding aspects of heart development by studying cardiac neural crest cells – multipotent cells essential to the heart’s formation.

“I want to know how the heart forms and how the heart mis-forms,” she says. “When it fails, the result is congenital heart disease.”

Sharing her fascination with biology with students is at the core of her career, she says.

“My dad told me many years ago that I’m a teacher. I thought to myself ‘What is Dad talking about? I do research,’ but I realized that I am always teaching. I like to talk about what I do, and I’m interested in people understanding what I do,” said Ezin. “I feel at home in the classroom. I feel calm. I am having fun. I’m completely present.”