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AU News

Biology Professor Co-Authors Cell Biology Textbook

April 15, 2020
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Dr. Diana Ivankovic, director of the Anderson University Center for Cancer Research, recently co-authored a cell biology textbook with help from AU students.

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Dr. Diana Ivankovic has spent years meandering between microscopes in Watkins Hall and studying cells with her students at the Anderson University Center for Undergraduate Cancer Research. As a professor of biology and director of the Center, Dr. Ivankovic’s days are full.

But that didn’t stop her from taking yet another leap in her career: co-authoring a cell biology textbook.

During the summer months, Dr. Ivankovic edits and writes for textbook publishing company Jones and Bartlett Learning. When she learned that Dr. George Plopper—who holds his Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology from Harvard University—needed a co-author for a new edition of his textbook, she saw it as an opportunity to channel her teaching experience into print. Out of many applicants, she was chosen for the task.

This year, the third edition of Principles of Cell Biology, co-authored by Dr. Ivankovic and Dr. Plopper and published by Jones and Bartlett Learning, was released. The book is now sold globally and translated in multiple languages including Korean, Chinese and Italian.

Although many students flip open a crisp textbook on the first day of class without a second thought, authoring a textbook is no small undertaking. For Dr. Ivankovic, it meant four years of writing.

“It was an honor for me, but at the same time a frightful challenge, since I wanted to do a good job co-authoring this book,” Dr. Ivankovic said. “I was also aware that for many years to come I was not going to have free evenings, family time with my husband and children, weekends, holidays and summers. However, at the end, it was all worth it.”

Although the process was demanding, her students and colleagues rallied around her. The acknowledgments of the textbook include many family and friends of Anderson University.

“AU has given me the support, knowledge and inspiration to undertake this four-year-long challenging endeavor,” Dr. Ivankovic said.

In penning a section on organic chemistry, Dr. Ivankovic said she gleaned from the expertise of Dr. Dorota Abramovitch, professor of chemistry at Anderson University. And she consulted her former biology students, AU alumni Zach Perdun and Dr. David DeHart, for guidance in molecular biology. Perdun holds a master’s from John Hopkins University, and Dr. DeHart holds a Ph.D. in molecular medicine from the Medical University of South Carolina and a law degree from the Charleston School of Law.

Additionally, she selected senior AU biochemistry majors Michael Stevens, Isaac Daffron and Walter (Kyle) Myers as her editors for the textbook.

“Having the honor to be hand-picked by Dr. Ivankovic for a task of this size and nature was truly a defining experience for me at AU,” Stevens said. “I could have never imagined when I came to Anderson that I would be editing a textbook and that my hard work would not only aid in my understanding of cell biology, but would also impact the learning of students across the globe.”

And the textbook became a family affair as well. Dr. Ivankovic’s husband, Dr. Miren Ivankovic, is a professor of economics and finance at AU, and he supported her through years of writing. She welcomed insight from their sons, Dr. Sven Ivankovic, a neurosurgery resident at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, and Andre Ivankovic, an aerospace engineer who works for Launcher in New York.

“As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. It took help from AU current faculty and students, AU alumni and family members to complete the Principles of Cell Biology,” Dr. Diana Ivankovic said.

With 30 years of teaching experience including more than 15 years at Anderson, Dr. Ivankovic said she drew from her time in the classroom to explain difficult biological concepts in a way that students could grasp and retain.

Her work at the Center for Undergraduate Cancer Research was also influential in the formation of the textbook. The Center enables students to do cancer research, present at various conferences and publish their work. In addition to editing the textbook, Stevens and Daffron published a cancer research manual with Dr. Ivankovic last year.

Stevens, who has researched and worked closely with Dr. Ivankovic, said she is a constant source of encouragement and inspiration to her students.

“These experiences have allowed me to really see Dr. Ivankovic’s dedication and compassion for educating as well as being a leader at AU and within the Anderson community,” Stevens said.

The textbook is not only a milestone in her career but embodies her heart for teaching.

“I love [Anderson] because I get to stay young in spirit, while encouraging our students to get involved, get excited, aim for the stars and succeed. When they achieve their goals, my heart celebrates. The future is in the hands of our students, and I could not be more proud of them,” she said.

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