Blog Academics, Faculty

Dr. Joel Light Brightens the UNW Biology Department

By Natasha Chernyavsky on Wednesday, April 11, 2018


Hip. Great communicator. Follower of Christ. The man with the chicken. These are all ways students have described Dr. Joel Light. As an assistant professor of biology, Dr. Light has had the opportunity to teach a class to nearly every student on campus. But who is Dr. Light? Besides, of course, the man who lends his chicken to help students make it through finals week.

Dr. Light began teaching at University of Northwestern—St. Paul ten years ago. Light said, “I really am passionate about God’s creation.” One of the things he loves about being at Northwestern is the gorgeous campus. “We have a lot of natural resources and it’s been nice to have such great opportunities to get students outside,” to reawaken, the wonder of God’s creation in the lives of his students.

Light isn’t just accomplishing this through field trips or science internships in the Boundary Waters, his classroom time is just as effective. One of his current students, Sharon Dunbar, stated, “He’s increased my interest in biology. He’s really shown how amazing it all is. It is impressive how much he cares about what he teaches and the students he is teaching it to.”

Light, however, is just as thankful for his students as they are for him. He said, “I really enjoy working with the students. It’s a small close-knit group…that I feel like I get to connect with on a personal level. It’s been nice to be able to come alongside students and help them in their spiritual formation, as they develop into men and women of God. To be a little part, a piece of that, is quite an honor.”

Mentor, professor, and outdoorsman, Light is also a fearless advocate for what he believes in. As a science professional and a Christian, Light is looking to converge his work and faith. “Over my life I’ve had this ability to bridge groups together,” he said. One of his hopes is to show, that there is integration and opportunities. He said, “I enjoy putting those two things together in an intentional way.” Currently, Dr. Light is working to publish some of his work on how Evangelicals should respond to climate change. His research looks at the biblical and scientific responsibility Christians have towards the earth as stewards of God’s creation.

One thing that Light is not is ordinary. He was born in Quito, Ecuador, where his parents served as missionaries. Although he didn’t spend much time there growing up, he has carried this flair of extraordinary throughout his life. When not working, Dr. Light alternates between being a snowboard instructor at Trollhaugen, repurposing furniture with his wife, and mountain biking through Colorado with his family.

But underlying everything that Dr. Light does is his love for the Lord and passion in sharing that with others. Dunbar stated, “He has an obvious love for God and communicates it well.” She said that without Dr. Light, “UNW would miss out on a passionate teacher and follower of Christ.”