Faculty in Focus: Professor Kevin Crisp

Professor Kevin Crisp is known across campus not only as an excellent professor but also as a witty, personable and approachable guy. Crisp began his higher education at Haverford College in Pennsylvania and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology. After Haverford, he pursued his PhD in neuroscience at the University of Minnesota and completed his postdoctoral in endocrinology at the University of Minnesota and in biophysics and physiology at the University of Miami.

With his diverse educational history, Crisp is a go-to professor for students with a wide range of interests in the sciences. Crisp’s educational path shifted a few times over the course of many years, resulting in diverse research interests including neural regeneration after injury, invertebrate motor systems, cellular excitability and computer modeling.

Regarding current research, Crisp said, “[We are working on] developing techniques for powering implanted electrophysiology devices using wireless technologies. Batteries are large, get hot and have to be attached by long wires. Near field radio frequency coupling presents a plausible alternative.”

Implanted electrophysiology devices like pacemakers are vital in medicine, but the surgically implanted battery, about the size of a flip phone, causes trouble. One goal of Crisp’s research is to downsize these batteries to the size of a grain of rice and to power them from radio frequencies to help eliminate complications.

Aside from his research, Crisp teaches science classes, including: Cell Biology and Genetics, Introduction to Neuroscience, Neuroethology, the Neuron Seminar and Human Anatomy and Physiology. When asked which of these classes is his favorite, he replied that while he does love what he teaches, his favorite classes depend more on the students than the material of the classes themselves. His all time favorite classes always involve high levels of student enthusiasm and engagement.

“The most fun classes to teach are the ones where the students sink their teeth in, get invested and compete, preferably against themselves, to do the best they can. The best part of my job is seeing students grow in confidence and determination,” Crisp said.

In addition to teaching his students, Crisp also spends time outdoors rock climbing, running and fishing. His scientific side emerges with his interest in hobby electronics and amateur radio contests, competing to see how many miles he can communicate via radio.

Crisp also enjoys creative writing, and he has been involved in some interesting literary opportunities such as editing the work of a well-known Western fiction author.

“I was also involved in a project in the last couple years to produce a series of short indie horror films, as a writer, but we ran out of money so the project is currently on the back burner, although it’s still listed on IMDB as under production. As much as I like science and academia, outside of work I find creative and spiritual types of people keep me grounded,” Crisp said.

A classic liberal arts professor, Crisp enjoys teaching his students and always emphasizes that St. Olaf’s goal is to ensure that every student receives the attention she or he needs. He is often greeted during office hours with a long line outside his door. Students are eager to receive his insight and assistance.

When asked about his favorite aspect of St. Olaf, Crisp said, “The students. They are in a league of their own among college students because they are dedicated, well-rounded, spiritually grounded. I have the best job because I get to work with people who inspire me every day.”