Class Act: Biology teacher Neha Mathur


Fareen Dhuka

Mathur demonstrates the procedure for a strawberry DNA lab to her freshman class.

Megan Chang, Staff Writer

Throughout her travels from India to Malaysia to Singapore, biology teacher Neha Mathur’s sole dream was to work in biochemistry as a research pharmacist.

Mathur always had an aptitude for science, as her father was a cardiologist. Her love for biochemistry led to her first job as a researcher at Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company in Kanpur, India. Although she had always aspired to become a pharmacist, Mathur did not enjoy woking in a cubicle or performing experiments in solitude.

Her husband’s job working in the energy sector led to their move to Malaysia, where she taught middle school students for two years. Only when her husband was transferred to Singapore did Mathur decide to give working as a biochemist another try.

Having a similar experience at the pharmaceutical company in Kanpur, Mathur soon developed a strong aversion for the research, which revolved around conducting drug research on mice. Every day, Mathur would inject cancer cells into the mice to see if a new drug was successful.

“That was one of the things I really hated,” Mathur said. “After doing this for about six months, I realized as I would enter the room where [the mice] were, they would run away. They could sense you. It was the most horrible feeling that I had.”

Mathur recalls having to wear thick gloves when holding the mice as they had attempted to bite the researchers, having grown accustomed to the routine of being prodded at.

“We were doing something so malicious to another living thing, and I started dreading getting up in the morning and doing that,” Mathur said.

As someone who enjoys working with others, Mathur could not see herself conducting experiments as a biochemist in the future. When Mathur and her husband were transferred to Louisiana, she decided to complete a masters in education since working as a biochemist at Pfizer and in Singapore had dissuaded her from researching biochemistry and pharmaceuticals.

Mathur enjoys interacting with students and creating bonds with them as she believes teachers can make a lasting impact on a student’s life. She clearly recalls her middle and high school teachers and continues to keep in contact with a student that she taught 10 years ago.

“It still amazes me when I’m teaching, and I see a lightbulb going off in a student’s mind,” Mathur said. “I like the idea of stimulating minds to see what is in front of you, but with a different view.”

When Mathur moved to Houston because of her husband’s job, she had at first applied blindly to jobs at multiple schools. Only after receiving a call from St. John’s did she research and ask friends to find out more information about the school.

“I was getting raving reviews about what a great school it is — the academic rigor and the students — that’s what got me excited about the fact that this [was] probably a place I [wanted] to be,” Mathur said.

Mathur enjoys teaching biology because she believes that it relates on a personal level to the human body, yet she loves the interaction she has with her students more, describing her teaching profession as a calling.

“I look forward to class as a whole,” freshman Olivia Pieper said. “I’m not tired; I’m excited to go to class.”

In addition to creating a lasting bond with her students, Mathur would like them to develop an appreciation for the sciences and learn important life skills.

“I definitely want to teach them to think outside the box — not just what’s it the textbook, to think of how you can apply it around you,” she said.

Throughout her journey around different countries and professions, Mathur strongly asserted that she would not travel back in time to redo anything.

“Her teaching style reflects both her enthusiasm and caring personality,” Chair of the Science Department Susan Bigge said. “She will always really want to know how you are doing and remembers the little details from people’s lives.”

For more about Mathur’s experiences at SJS, check out this episode of Pod on the Quad!