5 questions with…pathology, anatomy and biomaterials expert Nicholas Ziats

Nicholas ZiatsNicholas P. Ziats, associate professor of pathology, biomedical engineering and anatomy, joined Case Western Reserve University more than 30 years ago as a laboratory technician. But after only a few months, he knew he was going to work in that field for the rest of his life.

He went on to earn his PhD in experimental pathology from the university in 1987 before joining the faculty full time in 1991.

Ziats’ commitment to research, teaching, and the fields of medicine and biomaterials over the years has earned him the role of president-elect for the Society for Biomaterials, a leading professional organization to promote biomaterials research.

As president-elect, Ziats will assist the president with his duties and work to promote advances in biomedical materials research. He also will preside at meetings of the society, the council and the board of directors, and be the chairperson of the Long Range Planning Committee.

After a year as president-elect, Ziats will take over the position of president for one year, followed by a year as past president, and another year as second past president to round out his four-year term of service.

Throughout his term, Ziats hopes to bring together the leaders from academia and the biomaterials industry to have productive, ongoing conversations about the progression and future of the field.

“In a lifetime, many people will have a replaced knee, hip, pacemaker, cardiac valve, coronary stent, an artificial heart or one of the many other new replacement parts put into their body,” Ziats said. “The society must keep the public informed on advances in the field as well as adverse advents that may be a problem with devices used in their body.”

Ziats’ experience with a multitude of research projects at Case Western Reserve will be beneficial in helping him lead the diverse organization.

“I started investigating cardiovascular disease and proceeded into the field of biomaterials research, particularly with regard to biocompatibility or how devices work or don’t work in the body,” Ziats said. Now, his research relates to translational medicine working on projects in drug delivery and cardiovascular stents.

Along with his research, Ziats is also very involved in medical education and projects related to improving the learning of his students.

“It’s not enough to get up and give a lecture—many can do this quite well. But interacting with students and getting their feedback on what is easy or difficult about a particular concept is important,” he said. “Achieving or perceiving what is actually learned is quite difficult.”

When Ziats isn’t teaching or working on his research, he can be found reading, cooking and spending time with his family.

Beyond the Society for Biomaterials, there’s one other thing Ziats might like to be president of—read on to find out.

1. If you could do any job in the world for one day, what would it be and why?
Ideally, I would like to be President of the United States and would have a day with the major activity being a meeting with world leaders, Congress, politicians and others to say, “Enough is enough and how can we learn to live together and make this world a place to enjoy?”

Practically, I wouldn’t mind being head chef for a day in a major restaurant.

2. What’s your favorite activity to do in Cleveland?
One of my favorite activities is going to the West Side Market. I go shopping at the market about twice a month and have been doing this for a number of years. As a native Clevelander, I remember going on Saturdays as a child with my father. Now, I know a number of the vendors and have my favorites that I frequent; it’s a great place to spend a few hours.

3. What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Cell/smartphones and the absolute obsession that people have with them

4. What is the best class you’ve ever taken—from elementary school through higher education—and what skills or lessons did you learn that you still use today?
A course I took for fun as an undergraduate was called orienteering. This was a course to learn how to navigate in the wilderness using only a compass and a map— long before the days of a GPS. I learned to use the compass and map (especially the determining the topography of the area) to find specific locations, in daytime or even at night. It was fun and I learned about how lost I can be even a few miles from home. It also tested your skills and instincts in an unfamiliar environment.

Thus, [I realized] learning should be fun yet challenging—even though it may make you uncomfortable. There are orienteering clubs worldwide, as far as I am aware, and they have monthly events locally in various areas of the Cleveland Metroparks system and elsewhere.

5. What is your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?
It has to be the students as well as my colleagues/mentors, as one can learn significantly from both. This learning is what drives much of what is going on at this university and much of that is based on our prior experiences. This is important to me, as I have used information and advice from students and colleagues to improve upon what I do in the classroom.