Faculty Highlight: Timothy Meier, Department of Science

Professor Timothy Meier teaches in Maranatha’s Department of Science. He and his family moved to Wisconsin after taking on this new endeavor. His wife is a stay-at-home mother, his daughter attends the university, and his son works on campus. If he’s not spending time with his family, serving in his local church, or riding his bike, Meier can be found in a lab at MBU, teaching courses from microbiology to biochemistry. We caught up with him there.

How did you become interested in your field?

I loved science as a child, and knew I wanted to go into science. To me, that meant becoming a doctor, and my grandparents—they were the only ones allowed to call me ‘Timmy’—said, “Timmy, you’re going to be a doctor someday.”

So I grew up thinking of going to medical school. However, in college, I started doing research in the labs, and microbiology piqued my interest. I fell in love with the lab work in all of my science classes. That’s when I knew that I wanted to spend my time in a laboratory. Honestly, I didn’t have the best people skills so becoming a physician didn’t seem to be the best fit for me. I decided my sophomore-junior year that I wanted to pursue research, and I started exploring careers that were available in that field.

What was your educational background?

I graduated with a bachelor’s of science in Pre-Med, which is essentially a biology major with a chemistry minor. Then I went to Clemson University and earned a master’s in Microbiology. I wanted to pursue a doctorate next, but I found out through a church friend that Lilly Pharmaceuticals was hiring for a position that matched my skill set exactly. I interviewed, and they offered me the job. I said, “Okay, Lord, well, let’s work for a while and I’ll see how I’ll like it.” So I worked at Lilly for about three and a half years.

I went on to Washington University in St. Louis and enrolled in a biochemistry and molecular genetics program with the intent of earning my Ph.D. I spent three years there and ended up getting another master’s. I did all my coursework, passed it, finished my qualifying exam, had a year-and-a-half done on my thesis research, and my advisor moved his lab to Madison, WI! My wife and I had bought a home in St. Louis so we had to decide whether or not to move. My graduate research was on viral transcription regulation and Lilly had a current need for a scientist with that specific training. Lilly made an offer that I couldn’t refuse, and I settled for the master’s and went back to work at Lilly Pharmaceuticals.

What brought you to MBU?

I spent twenty-five years at Lilly studying infectious diseases for half of my career and cancer research for the other half. I was planning to work another five years to reach full retirement and then teach afterwards. Last September, Lilly offered an early retirement package. I discussed it with my wife because this was a good opportunity to begin teaching earlier than anticipated. My daughter was looking at Maranatha as a potential college. We were visiting in October, and my wife said, “Why don’t I call Maranatha and see if they need a science professor?”

At that point, there were three schools I’d considered, and MBU was one of them. My wife called and learned there was indeed a need for a science professor.

I look back at how the Lord has led through all of my life, and clearly He made the way for me to go. He chose the path, opened the doors, and directed me. For me, the most important thing is moving forward in His will. He can steer me where He wants, but I’m always moving forward. God can’t steer a car that is not on and moving. If you’re just waiting for something to happen, it’s probably not going to happen. You have to be moving forward for His will to direct you. Be open to where He’s going to direct you, and He will. He always has in my life.

What is your favorite part about MBU?

The students. I love interacting with the students. I used to teach lab experiments to homeschool families, because some of the parents were a little afraid of laboratory experiments. I did this with students from first grade all the way through high school, and I enjoyed seeing the lights go on in their minds when they learned something about science.

Do you have any advice for prospective students entering your field of study?

It’s important that students get internships during the summertime in areas that interest them. The connections that they’ll make during internships are extremely valuable. They need the experience in the laboratory and the chance to apply the information they get in the lecture classes as they enter the workforce. So get out and get those internships if you can!

What is a proud moment from your life?

I graduated from Bob Jones University, but I wasn’t the best student. For me to get a job at one of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world is not a proud moment for me personally, but reflects a pride in God’s enabling power. He gave me the ability to succeed. And as I look back, I didn’t have the talent or the abilities to do those kinds of things, but God developed me all those years. It was through His power I was able to succeed in the job that I did. I was promoted into the research scientist ranks, led my own projects, and was well thought of, in spite of being a Creationist. God had His hand in everything that I did and in my work. So I’m proud of that. I didn’t belong there, and by the world’s terms, I should never have had the job.

What is your salvation testimony?

I grew up in a home where we always went to church. At four years of age, I remember being at a rally where the salvation message was given. I went forward to be saved after that message. I was baptized not long after that, but I remember struggling as a teenager. What did I really do? Did I understand what salvation was? Did I understand that I was a sinner?

I was at The Wilds camp, seventeen years old—the summer before I went to college—and the evangelist, Phil Shuler, was preaching and he asked, “What are you trusting in for your salvation?” He would talk about the Lutherans trusting in confirmation and the Catholics trusting in their works. “Are you trusting in having made a decision or are you trusting in the saving work of the Lord?” And wow, I had to sit there and think, “You know, I’m probably trusting in looking back and having made that decision, but I don’t really know what I did. I want to trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ.” So at that point, I went forward and asked Christ to forgive me of my sins and save me. I then went home and told my pastor and was baptized.

Are you working on any big projects right now that you can tell us about?

I would like to expand our laboratories at Maranatha and recruit more scientists. I’m also working on a collaboration with a chemist at another university to continue some level of drug discovery with malaria in order to teach these skills to students. He would provide the chemistry for molecules to test, and we would do the biology and enzymology to identify the active compounds. We’ll trust the Lord’s direction as we seek to bring this all together.