PROFile: Jens Franck

Associate Professor, Department of Biology, U of W

Growing up, Jens Franck, a biology professor at the University of Winnipeg, always had an interest in science.

“My dad was a professor, actually. He was a physics professor, and he intended (for) me to be a physics professor. Didn’t quite work out.”

Believe it or not, chemistry was his favourite subject, not biology.

It was during his fourth year of university that Franck discovered molecular biology and decided to pursue graduate opportunities.

Franck went to Tallahassee for his PhD, spent some time teaching in the United States and eventually worked his way back to Canada.

Photo by Keeley Braunstein-Black

Franck has taught at the University of Winnipeg since 2004. One aspect of teaching in Winnipeg he enjoys is working with his students.

“We have some excellent students, and I’m not just saying that,” he says. “I taught at a liberal arts college in Los Angeles, which is one of these high-priced colleges where students paid $50,000 dollars a year to go ... those students are supposed to be highly selected and really good students, but I’d put the students here up against them any day.”

A part of the job Franck enjoys in particular is when he sees students thoughtfully engaging with the material in the classroom.

“Sometimes, students think it’s just regurgitating what the prof tells you on their exam, and there’s a certain amount of that that’s required, but it’s best when the students are able to take all this information and integrate it and ask their own questions.”

Seeing a student’s potential is hugely rewarding for Franck.

“For me, lectures are an opportunity to identify students who are probably interested in research or have a strength in research, and then I’ll put my students in research as well.”

What is something you’ve learned from your students?

“Resilience.”

What do you like to do in your free time? 

“Play hockey (and) walk my dogs.”

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

“MRI vision.”

Published in Volume 74, Number 22 of The Uniter (March 19, 2020)

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