Thirty Years

No, the LTEE did not suddenly jump forward by almost 3 years. That milestone will be reached on February 24, 2018.

Next Friday is the end of the semester at MSU and, for me, it will mark 30 years that I’ve been on the faculty: six at UC-Irvine, and 24 here at MSU. (I also taught for one semester at Dartmouth as a sabbatical replacement, while I was doing a postdoc at UMass.)

Holy cow: 30 years. Where did all that time go?

Well, a lot of it was spent advising, supervising, and mentoring graduate students. And those have been some of the most interesting, enjoyable, and rewarding professional experiences that I can imagine.

In fact, this afternoon Caroline Turner defended her dissertation – congratulations Dr. Turner! Her dissertation is titled “Experimental evolution and ecological consequences: new niches and changing stoichiometry.” It contains four fascinating and meaty chapters, two on the interplay between evolutionary and ecological processes in the LTEE population that evolved the ability to grow on citrate, and two on evolved changes in the elemental stoichiometry of bacterial cells over experimental time scales.

Caroline is the 20th student to complete her Ph.D. with me serving as the advisor or co-advisor. Here they all are, with links to their professional pages or related sites.

  1. Felisa Smith, Ph.D. in 1991 from UC-Irvine.
  2. John Mittler, Ph.D. in 1992 from UC-Irvine.
  3. Mike Travisano, Ph.D. in 1993 from MSU.
  4. Paul Turner, Ph.D. in 1995 from MSU.
  5. Greg Velicer, Ph.D. in 1997 from MSU.
  6. Brendan Bohannan, Ph.D. in 1997 from MSU.
  7. Phil Gerrish, Ph.D. in 1998 from MSU.
  8. Farida Vasi, Ph.D. in 2000 from MSU.
  9. Vaughn Cooper, Ph.D. in 2000 from MSU.
  10. Danny Rozen, Ph.D. in 2000 from MSU.
  11. Kristina Hillesland, Ph.D. in 2004 from MSU.
  12. Elizabeth Ostrowski, Ph.D. in 2005 from MSU.
  13. Bob Woods, Ph.D. in 2005 from MSU.
  14. Dule Misevic, Ph.D. in 2006 from MSU.
  15. Gabe Yedid, Ph.D. in 2007 from MSU.
  16. Sean Sleight, Ph.D. in 2007 from MSU.
  17. Zack Blount, Ph.D. in 2011 from MSU.
  18. Justin Meyer, Ph.D. in 2012 from MSU.
  19. Luis Zaman, Ph.D. in 2014 from MSU. (Charles Ofria was the primary advisor.)
  20. Caroline Turner, Ph.D. in 2015 from MSU.

There are also 8 doctoral students at various stages currently in my group at MSU including Brian Wade (Ph.D. candidate), Mike Wiser (Ph.D. candidate), Rohan Maddamsetti (Ph.D. candidate), Alita Burmeister (Ph.D. candidate), Elizabeth Baird, Jay Bundy, Nkrumah Grant, and Kyle Card.

My own advisor – the late, great Nelson Hairston, Sr. – said that he expected his graduate students to shed sweat and maybe even occasional tears, but not blood. I would imagine the same has been true for my students.

Thirty years, holy cow. Time flies when you’re working hard and having fun!

Added November 4, 2015:  And now #21 in my 31st year, as  Mike Wiser successfully defended his dissertation today!



Filed under Education, Science

6 responses to “Thirty Years

  1. Congratulations, Rich! I have never had the privilege of directing PhD students or postdocs…but I do know how wonderful it feels to see undergraduate research students go on to earn their own PhDs, do postdocs, and win faculty jobs. I just sent my 17th undergraduate to a PhD program…thus, I feel a version of the pride you feel. As always, I am so impressed with your work and your approach to being humane in science. A honor to know you, sir. Congratulations again!

    • Thanks, Mark. And congratulations to you on teaching microbiology to so many fantastic students in such interesting and creative ways, while also conveying the rigor of the science.

    • Rich, I feed much lower on the scientific trophic web than you do, but I have hung in there; I appreciate your kind words as always. Many, many (oops) years ago, when I was an unhappy worker in biotech, and wanted to get back to academia, you encouraged me and treated me like a colleague who had value during an interview. I owe you a great deal for that (though I am certain you will tell me it was no big deal; I beg to differ). So not only are you a fine scientist (yours is one of the names I *insist* my students know), but you are a kind and wonderful person as well. That’s rare; most academics are the people no one wanted on that fourth grade kickball team. I look forward to seeing your work for many years to come.

  2. I can’t speak for any of the others, but I can remember shedding some blood here and there during my time as a grad student in the lab…

    I know that I can say for the others that I continue to be dazed that I have been so fortunate as to have studied and worked under you, and to be able to count myself among the distinguished cadre of scientists who constitute part of your legacy. May your days ahead be many, but you can rest assured that the doings of those already past shall echo through the ages.

    • Yeah, I guess I shed a little blood, too, from blisters using post-hole diggers and such in my field-ecology days. And our lab is full of glass, so I imagine there’ve been many cuts along the way.

      Who knows where the time goes? Which reminds me of this hauntingly beautiful song of that name by Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention:

  3. I always wished I hurried up a bit so I can claim spot number 13. Since that didn’t happen, at least I defended on (Thursday) the 13th. Congrats, that’s a great anniversary!