Why are, or were, you in academia?
When I was in my junior year of college, I felt that I really hadn’t learned anything in my three years of schooling. I knew there was so much more to learn about the world and I wanted to keep on learning. So I went to graduate school where I discovered I could make a career out of learning and that’s just what I’ve done!
If you do research, what’s it about, and why should people care about it?
Growing up, my mother always told me that I could do anything I wanted except become a teacher. I don’t think I consciously rebelled against her, but today I study teaching and learning, specifically, how undergraduates learn biology. Learning, it turns out, is really difficult, but the expectations for what our students know and can do is constantly morphing. We have to understand learning so we can teach students to be agile when they get into the ‘real world’.
If you are currently an academic, have you considered leaving? Why? Why are you staying?
It’s hard not to think about leaving. I’m at a land grant institution and times are difficult. Money is tight, morale is low, and the future looks bleak. I’m staying (for now) in part because I’m a chicken and changing careers after tenure is scary. But mostly I’m staying for my students. I love working with graduate and undergraduate students, learning together, making discoveries, putting the pieces of our research puzzle together. I try to think optimistically about their futures and how they might make the world a better place.