WM asked several
prominent science graduates to comment on the pros
and cons of their education. Here is a sample of
Tom Roberts ’70, research group leader, Dana
Farber Cancer Research Center, Harvard:
“When I got to Harvard
for graduate school, I was apprehensive, but when
I got my first tests back, the scores were OK.
I realized that Wabash had done a very good job
of teaching not just facts, but the scientific
principles which underlie the facts.
very well prepared in terms of experiments which
had been done recently, but you can always learn
that. Wabash had done a very good job of teaching
me how to think.”
Rick Dahlquist ’64, chairman, chemistry department,
University of Oregon:
“A place like the University
of Oregon has things that Wabash won’t have.
Oregon is a better representation of what the
profession is like. Students get an edge in learning
to do research at Oregon.
“But the standards
are higher and the classes are infinitely better
at Wabash. For the most part, research is the
thing the faculty is passionate about at a big
school. We would like to believe that all our
teachers are fabulous, but it’s a not very
well kept secret that if you are a mediocre teacher
but a fabulous researcher, you can get tenure
at a big school.
“The other thing
that isn’t available at Wabash is a wide
variety of courses. But science is about thinking,
not about facts. So the really terrific but relatively
limited undergraduate classes I took were all
that I needed to know. If I had to do it over
again, I’d go to Wabash.”
Geoffrey Coates ’89, professor of
chemistry, Cornell Univerity:
“I was really worried
going off to graduate school at Stanford that
there would be students from Harvard and MIT with
much better backgrounds than me. We also had students
from Middlebury, Oberlin, and Grinnell. It seemed
to me that students from the liberal arts colleges
had a better background and better grasp of the
material. What was really clear was that we had
a laboratory background that was superior to that
of a lot of the big schools.
“Probably the hardest
part of my job is managing my research group.
One of the really strong aspects of Wabash is
that it’s a very social college. You learn
how to interact with other people—to be
respectful of other people’s opinions, and
to express your own opinions to the group.”
Tom Emmick ’62, retired vice-president for
research, Eli Lilly, Inc.:
I had at Wabash for graduate school was excellent,”
he said. “We had seven or eight chemistry
majors in my class. All but one has a Ph.D.
“I learned to understand
people, hear all viewpoints, and make good decisions.
Whether that was gotten in the classroom, or fraternities,
or athletics, the ability to work with others
through a team effort was obviously key to me
because I spent many, many years in management.”
Emory Simmons ’41, mycologist, retired head
of mycology, U.S. Army Natick Research:
“One of the great
points of our training was that it was so broad
that you could jump from one viewpoint to another.
We were exposed to a large range of factual material.
Today’s students are so much more advanced
in their training when they hit Wabash than my
generation was, but they may be too advanced too
early. If they have to switch fields, they may
not be able to pick up a new field because the
broad background isn’t there.”
Steve Hildebrand ‘66, Director of the Environmental
Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratories:
Laboratory, expert in the identification
of microscopic fungi “The things you’re
exposed to in a good liberal arts education are
definitely an asset in scientific leadership positions.
A liberal arts background brings a lot to the
table—for instance, if you are working with
academic panels to determine future scientific
initiatives, communicating with lay audiences,
or working with people from different scientific
or ethnic cultures.”