Biological Sciences Professor says Science is “In His Blood”

Dr. Max Sanderford and his family
Photo provided by Dr. Max Sanderford

Rachel Snyder

STEPHENVILLE (May 10, 2018)- Tarleton State University professor Dr. Max Sanderford alternates his time between teaching, researching, mentoring students and occasionally experimenting on catfish. As an associate professor of biological studies, Sanderford focuses on physiology.

“I am really passionate about physiology because it is the science of how the body works,” Sanderford said in an email interview. “It is often considered the basis for medicine. I think students appreciate how physiology is often the first class that really brings together math, physics, and chemistry into this functioning whole we call an animal or human. It is just so incredibly amazing to see how it all works together.”

The main class Sanderford teaches is animal physiology, an advanced physiology course. He olso teaches histology which is the microscopic study of tissues.

“There are a bunch of things I enjoy [about teaching], but all seem to involve students,” Sanderford said. “When a student has an “ah-ha” moment in class, or when she has an experiment go right for the first time, or when she receives an acceptance to graduate or professional school and I am there to share the moment in celebration.”

Science has always been a part of Sanderford’s life. His father was a junior high physical science teacher.

“After he passed away from cancer and a few years later, my mom married my pediatrician who had lost his wife, also to cancer,” Sanderford said. “So teaching and science and medicine are sort of in my blood.”

Sanderford earned his bachelor’s and master’s of science in biology from Baylor University. When he was working his bachelor’s degree, Sanderford’s career choice briefly veered in a new direction.


“I took a historical anthropology course in college right off the heels of watching one of the Indiana Jones movies and told my dad I was changing my major to archaeology (which he thought was a really dumb idea),” Sanderford said. “Fortunately, that course required us to spend some time digging at the mammoth site in Waco. I learned pretty quick that the idea of digging up an entire city with dental instruments did not sound so appealing after all.”

Sanderford credits choosing physiology to a professor who guided him through undergraduate and graduate school.

“In the fall of my 3rd year in college is when my dad passed away and in the spring of my 3rd year in college, the physiology professor took me under his wing,” Sanderford said.

After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Sanderford earned his PhD at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

“Nearing the end of my training in San Antonio, I had accepted a position at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi,” Sanderford said. “A few months before reporting for duty, I just happen to see an ad from Tarleton. I had to get a map to figure out where Stephenville is located, but after visiting on interview, I guess you can say the rest is history.”

Now, in addition to teaching, Sanderford and his wife Leah Sanderford spend their time at their daughters’ activities and teaching in the college ministry at First Baptist Church Stephenville. Brooke Sanderford played soccer at Stephenville High School and currently attends Oauchita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Bailey Sanderford is a junior at Stephenville High School and will serve as the head captain of the Stephenville Stingerettes in the fall.

“Tarleton seems to have maintained that small college feel even though we are growing,” Sanderford said. “It also has strong tradition. I tell my children that I hope they will go to a 4-year school with traditions. If they were to come to Tarleton for school, I’d be delighted.”


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