In the coming year, Patricia Wadsworth, professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, will join Melody Brown Burkins on the Graduate Alumni Council. She will be taking over from Allan Weatherwax, who is completing his time as a member of the council this spring. Professor Weatherwax earned his PhD in physics in 1995 and frequently returns to campus to provide guidance to graduate students. The Graduate Studies Office thanks Weatherwax for his active participation on the Alumni Council and in the graduate community more generally. “Alan Weatherwax has been a great graduate representative on the council, and we will miss his leadership,” observes Assistant Dean of Recruiting, Jane Seibel.
Professor Wadsworth is an active member of her local Dartmouth Alumni Club in the Pioneer Valley, and she is looking forward to becoming involved in the Graduate Alumni Council. She completed her PhD at Dartmouth in 1983, working with Professor Roger Sloboda. The Graduate Forum recently had the opportunity to speak with Professor Wadsworth about her time at Dartmouth and decision to join the Graduate Alumni Council.
Graduate Forum (GF): What inspired you to study biology at Dartmouth?
Patricia Wadsworth (PW): My decision to study at Dartmouth stemmed from working at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. I had completed my undergraduate degree in biology at St. Lawrence University, and I took a summer job at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. My boss at MBL was Ken Edds, who received his PhD degree working with Professor Robert Allen, who subsequently moved to Dartmouth as Chair of Biology. Dartmouth researchers often perform research at the Marine Biological Lab over the summers, and I actually worked with several others from Dartmouth there. Dr. Edds had very much enjoyed working with Professor Allen, and he encouraged me to pursue my PhD at Dartmouth.
GF: What types of activities were you involved in while a graduate student?
PW: I spent a lot of time working in the lab, but in addition to that I also participated as a graduate student representative to the biology faculty. There was not a Graduate Student Council at that time, but individual departments did have graduate student representatives to inform them of graduate student happenings and concerns, so I participated as a rep. I also really enjoyed the many outdoor activities that the Hanover area offers. I took up cross-country skiing and went to the Dartmouth Outing Club cabins. There was a lot of camaraderie amongst the biology graduate students, and we would have different evening gatherings throughout the term.
GF: How did your graduate experience at Dartmouth prepare you for your position as a professor?
PW: As a graduate student, I had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for several different courses. I feel that being a TA was great preparation for the teaching that I do now. The undergraduate students at Dartmouth are very bright and working with them was both challenging and satisfying. Although at the time I was primarily interested in being in the lab and working on my research, I think it would have been much harder for me to transition to a faculty position had I not had the chance to observe Dartmouth professors teaching and work with undergraduates there.
GF: What was it that made you decide you wanted to be a part of the Graduate Alumni Council?
PW: There are really two reasons that I decided to get involved in the Alumni Council. The first is that as a professional, I feel that it is important to maintain connections with the institution where you studied. As a graduate student, you are heavily involved in the work of your advisor, and when you graduate, you tend to maintain that connection to your mentor as you become a young faculty member. However, it is also important to have broader connections to the institution as a whole and to have interactions with your other classmates. I think that at the time I graduated, there was less emphasis on mentoring activities and maintaining connections, but now there is starting to be more recognition of how important these mentoring connections are.
The second reason that I decided to join the Council was that I am already involved in the Pioneer Valley Dartmouth Alumni Club. My father-in-law, who graduated from Dartmouth in 1939, is very active in the Alumni Club, and I started attending events with him and really enjoyed them. They have annual dinners, activities for families, and other events two to three times a year. Based on my interactions with the Alumni Club, I decided that I would like to be more involved in the broader Dartmouth alumni community and joining the Council seemed like a great way to get involved.
GF: Do you have any specific goals for the Alumni Council?
PW: My main goal is to enhance the opportunities for graduate alumni to get involved in the Dartmouth community.
We thank Professor Wadsworth for taking the time to talk with us, and we look forward to working with her in the future to promote the work of the Graduate Alumni Council!