So on Tuesday morning, I was camped out in our lab’s conference room, and my Ph.D. advisor Jonathan Losos walked in, opening rather dramatically with “I can’t stay silent any longer, I have some advice for you.” Expecting some sort of harrowing, possibly life changing speech, I buckled in and prepared for the worst. But instead Jonathan proceeded to insist that I participate in at least the most ridiculously Harvard-esque part of the Commencement celebrations on Thursday, because when else would I do such a thing? I hadn’t planned on being part of Commencement at all, so I was skeptical that I could get robes or tickets or anything organized, but after half a day of running around, it all fell into place. Turns out it’s pretty straightforward, if you sound sad enough, blame your advisor for the last-minuteness of it all, and don’t request tickets for family or friends because you weren’t planning on walking anyway. My expectations of the whole event remained mostly low.
But the Commencement exercises were lovely! On my way in, I was applauded by the owner of the local sandwich shop (we cemented our mostly silent friendship when he asked me one day on the street two yeas ago if I was okay, at a time when I was clearly not). I got to hang out with biologists par excellence Dr. Allison Shultz, Dr. Kara Feilich, and Dr. Glenna Clifton, and made some new friends from the Human Evolutionary Biology department. We got to see Dame Judi Dench in the flesh, and the ceremonies ended with James Earl Jones saying “May the force be with you” to us all. Despite the cold and rain, it was so worth it.
But most of all, it was worth it to do something that Jonathan so clearly wanted me to do. When you have an advisor who cares so much about your work and well-being, you walk at Commencement as much to honor them as to celebrate your own achievement. And because I’m better with words than at pretty much anything else, it seems a fitting time, then, to share with you all a section from the Acknowledgements of my dissertation:
Jonathan Losos has been the best advisor I can imagine, and my respect for and admiration of him as a scientist and human being grow with our every interaction. Writing papers with Jonathan has been the most intellectually challenging and interesting part of my career so far. I am grateful that he gave me the space to pursue slightly off-the-wall research ideas and myriad non-academic interests, for his patience with my stubbornness, and for being open to having all sorts of difficult conversations. Thank you for everything, Jonathan, I’m beyond glad to have you in my corner.
And because I only get so many chances to be as sentimental in public as I am when no one’s watching, here are the rest of my thanks to the Harvard folks I know from being a graduate student here:
Naomi Pierce and David Haig have been on my committee throughout grad school, and I thank them both for welcoming me into their lab groups, and for their always-sage advice. As early committee members, Anne Pringle and Stephanie Meredith compelled me to frame my research as broadly and convincingly as possible. Ben de Bivort has been a tremendously generous committee member, inspiring creativity and instilling rigor into my statistical analyses in the last two years. He has also been a wonderfully patient sounding board on late-grad-school crises. And though not on my committee, Katie Hinde and Lizzie Wolkovich have given me crucial support at difficult moments in the last few years, and I wouldn’t be continuing in academia (for now) without them.
My labmates have been simply wonderful. In particular I’d like to thank Talia Moore for being my culture change co-conspirator, Pavitra Muralidhar, Sofia Prado-Irwin, Oriol Lapiedra, and especially Colin Donihue for helping me stay calm-ish and giving me level-headed advice on science and life, and Alexis Harrison, for introducing me to lizard behavior. Thom Sanger and Anthony Geneva have been like mini-advisors to me at different points in the last six years, sharing their expertise on lizard husbandry and genetics respectively. I couldn’t have done this work without their patient and kind guidance. Yoel Stuart is my academic best friend, and being able to count on him for research opportunities, critique, wisdom, and unwavering support for the last eight years has truly been a blessing. Thanks also to Travis Ingram, Ian Wang, Emma Sherratt, Julia Klazcko, Adam Freedman, Ali Hamilton, Claire Dufour, Graham Reynolds, Melissa Kemp, Nick Herrmann, Martha Muñoz, Katie Boronow, Shane Campbell-Staton, Luke Mahler, Inbar Maayan, Adam Algar, Katharina Wollenberg-Valero, Gabe Gartner, Rosario Castañeda, and lastly, my undergrad mentees Rachel Moon and Christian Perez—you’ve each taught me so much, and together made the lab a great place to work in.
Thanks to the magnificent staff in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and the Office of Animal Resources for making it a true joy to work here: Jose Rosado, Joe Martinez, Tsoyoshi Takahashi, Melissa Aja, Jared Hughes, Keleigh Quinn, Bridget Power, Marcia Kamierczak, Chris Preheim, Alex Hernandez Siegel, Lydia Carmosino, Mary Sears, Ronnie Broadfoot, Joe Rocca, Henry Moreno and Mona Alexis. Thank you, Andrew Richardson and Jim Hanken, for the chance to be a TF for your classes.
My friends in the department—Alex Brown, Dan Rice, Kara Feilich, and the rest of my cohort; also Mara Laslo, Heather Olins, Laura Lagomarsino, Didem Sarikaya, Liz Sefton, and Dipti Nayak—you all are the reason I survived this. Thanks to the other behavioral ecologists in OEB—Jack Boyle, Charlotte Jander, Cassie Stoddard, Christie Riehl, and James Crall—for your advice on and enthusiasm for my research.
Goodbye Harvard, and thank you for all the good parts, especially for being home to the Losos lab.