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Mark Ulett’s Experience at Biology by the Sea

By Mark A. Ulett, Biology and Society PhD student

It is sometimes easy for graduate students to get stuck in their own work. We become isolated from the community at large, lost in the vastness of our own projects. For this reason, it is important for our intellectual and professional development to emerge from the hermit’s shell to meet regional historical and philosophical investigators of the biological sciences. This January’s “Biology by the Sea” weekend workshop offered us an ideal setting for this opportunity.

I along with Arizona State University School of Life Sciences faculty members Jane MaienscheinAndrew Hamilton, and Brad Armendt, and fellow graduate students Steve Elliot and Katherine Liu participated in this workshop held at the University of California, San Diego. The weekend provided an excellent opportunity for graduate students to present their work to senior faculty in a supportive and constructive environment. Presentations covered the philosophical, historical, and social studies of biology. Projects ranged in size and levels completed, and it was impressive to witness the array of projects “under construction.”

Working towards a career in academia was another focus of this workshop. The meeting’s discussions transitioned from graduate student presentations to topics including interviewing for faculty positions and understanding scholarly publishing. The informal setting provided a superb occasion for young scholars to meet and discuss career opportunities with like-minded colleagues.

Participants of this southwest-focused group were from UC Davis, UC San Diego, Arizona State University, and University of Utah. The participation of supporting faculty like Bill Bechtel (UCSD Philosophy), Roberta Millstein, and Jim Griesemer (UC Davis Philosophy) in the intellectual and professional development discussions was invaluable. Graduate students, me included, would like to thank their associated institutions for the financial support that made this workshop a success. Arizona State University will host next year’s workshop (though the title will undoubtedly change). We look forward to continuing to build a regional community of scholars interested in studying the biological sciences.