Heather Jamniczky

Avenue Calgary’s 2015 Top 40 Under 40.

Photograph by Erin Brooke Burns

Job title: Assistant Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy, Cumming School of Medicine, University of Calgary

Why she’s a 2015 Top 40:

Heather Jamniczky is changing the way students at the University of Calgary study human anatomy and is measuring electrical activity in the brain to figure out how students learn. She’s also an award-winning instructor and part of the research team behind the Lindsay Virtual Human app, which brings medical school-quality materials to anyone with a smartphone or tablet.

Heather Jamniczky is a rare breed – an evolutionary biologist who found her groove teaching human anatomy. In the global village of academia, she’s also the rare breed of born-and-raised Calgarian who did both undergraduate and graduate studies at the University of Calgary and is now part of the faculty.

Jamniczky, 35, has found professional success and opportunity at her alma mater as an assistant professor of human anatomy. Her learner-centric approach earned her the Calgary Medical Students Association class of 2016 Gold Star and Jersey Awards for outstanding teaching, as well as the Bachelor of Health Sciences Teaching Award for 2014.

An important part of what distinguishes Jamniczky as an instructor is her research into the science of learning. She is currently the co-lead on a research team that is measuring electrical activity in the brain to study the mechanisms behind how students learn. She is also the educational lead on a research team that created the Lindsay Virtual Human app, a customizable teaching tool that allows students and teachers to build and deconstruct different human body systems using an interactive menu, and to investigate different body layers and parts using a virtual dissection tool.

“It’s one of the challenges I’m really interested in right now: how do we employ learning tools that are available to us and the wild world of the Internet in a useful way so people learn better?” Jamniczky says.

Now that Lindsay is in use at the U of C, Jamniczky is part of a team working to make it available to the university’s partner medical schools in Laos, Nepal and the Philippines. It is also available to the public via the Apple iTunes store for $5.79.

“It’s a fairly nominal amount of money, and we hope it allows everybody to get access,” Jamniczky says. “Why build stuff and hide it?”

In addition to her extensive teaching schedule, Jamniczky is also a research scientist, seeking to discover new links between development and disease by studying how body shapes evolve and what the results are when body parts don’t grow properly early in life. – Shelley Arnusch

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