Reprinted from the October 2019 Physiology Ambassadors newsletter.
University of Arizona alum and current Department of Physiology faculty member, Dr. Allyson Roof is a Wildcat through and through. Initially driven by a love for physics, Dr. Roof started at the UA with the intention of majoring in astronomy. After quickly realizing that a profession in astronomy was not her calling, she kept taking biology courses and considered the possibility of medical school. Motivated by this new career trajectory, Dr. Roof changed her major to Physiology and instantly fell in love with the subject, graduating with a bachelor's degree in physiology. “[PSIO 201] was the first class that made biology and chemistry and all those science courses make sense because it put those classes in context of the human body,” says Dr. Roof.
As she continued on the premed path and began shadowing physicians and volunteering in hospitals, Dr. Roof could not see herself practicing medicine as a career. Passionate about physiology, she stayed with the program while exploring other professions that would use the knowledge she had gained in this field of study. After graduation, Dr. Roof spent a year working on research. She discovered she really enjoyed the research process, so she applied for the UA Master of Science Degree in Physiological Sciences program. While working on her master’s degree, she was a teaching assistant (TA) for the PSIO 201/202 labs, an experience that showed her how much she loved teaching. “This was when I realized I wanted to get my PhD and teach at the university level,” she says.
Dr. Roof earned her PhD in Integrated Physiology and Reproductive Sciences from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Her research focused on studying pituitary adenomas, which incorporated endocrinology and cancer biology. She stayed at CU Anschutz for the postdoctoral fellowship, during which she studied the role of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) in post-menopausal bone-loss.
Dr. Roof enjoyed the research process, but she could not see herself doing it long term. She missed teaching. Dr. Roof decided to become a full-time educator and joined the UA Department of Physiology faculty. She now teaches and serves as the course director for PSIO 201, as well as offers an upper-division elective on the Physiology of Aging (PSIO 487).
Having once been a physiology undergraduate, Dr. Roof says she “quite literally has been in the students’ shoes.” She encourages students to get involved early in college, saying, “It can be easier to figure out what you want to do when you have people to talk to about it.” Also, as someone who realized medical school was not the right choice for her, Dr. Roof wishes more resources and better guidance were available for students who do not wish to pursue medicine. “There is a stigma that if you change your mind about medical school, it means you have somehow given up or failed. This is simply not true,” she says. She wants those students to know that many other options will allow them meaningful use of their physiology background. She says, “The coolest thing about studying physiology is that we all have a human body. Everyone can relate to it!”
In her free time, Dr. Roof enjoys tap dancing, hiking with her two dogs, and spending time with her family. If she were any cell in the human body, Dr. Roof says that she would be an interneuron because she likes being the go-between person and connecting people. Similar to an interneuron, she enjoys facilitating communication between people who might not know each other.
“The UA is my happy place,” says Dr. Roof. “It’s great to be back in Tucson and get to have input in how the physiology courses are developed and run. It feels like I’ve come full circle!”