There are many things I enjoy about teaching and doing research with undergraduates (and yes, there are challenges, too) here in the Biology Department at the University of Puget Sound.
From time to time---always a pleasant surprise---a student will send me a "thank you" note after graduation. Such notes are very nice to receive, and to hold in reserve for those difficult times all academics face periodically. Maybe as a deposit to our virtual "I'm okay at my job" emotional bank account, for those days when we have doubts.
By the way, isn't it interesting how we as a culture have no trouble sounding off when things are not to our liking...but seem to have problems telling others when they have done something well, or have had some kind of positive impact on our lives? Why is that?
Anyway, meet a young lady named Ariana, a transfer student to the University of Puget Sound. She was assigned to my advisee caseload, and we worked together for a bit over two years. Ariana was always quiet and a little nervous. It was great to see her gain confidence over the next two years. She even did some research with a colleague of mine, so I was able to work with Ariana a bit in the lab last summer. Ariana graduated in May, and is off to a library science M.S. program in Chicago (she always did love libraries!).
Ariana came to visit the lab this morning, and look at what she made me! It was a nice surprise, to say the least. Ariana poses with her knit bacteriophage here.
Also, the bacteriophage was happy to consume a donut at morning lab meeting. And yes, Ariana stitched my first name onto the knit face of that icosahedral head (which made some of my current students snicker that Ariana was implying that I am a virus).
But heck, to misquote the Bard of Avon, "...all the world's a phage...," right?
Here is a nice photo of the impressive knitting project, with a hand for scale.
I don't know exactly what pattern Ariana used. This is a possibility. I'm currently thinking about use thick wire to stiffen the phage legs and body, so that I can find a place to hang up the item in my lab or office.
This is why I have a job that is nearly perfect for me, right here. The surprises that let me know what I do and say matter to people mean more than I can easily express.
Such a nice surprise! Thank you, Ariana. It was a pleasure working with you while you were a student at the University of Puget Sound. I really appreciate the gift, and the kind words. Good luck in Chicago!