As the semester is at its end and I’m in the post-semester reflective mode, I’m thinking about gratitude. What am I thankful for after this year, what do I hope others feel about what I’ve done, are they thankful? One thing we fail at a bit in academics is giving credit or gratitude to those around us that have helped us. As I frequently find myself on graduate committees as a member, I do not expect to be thanked for serving as a committee member (I do as an advisor, hint hint…), it’s part of our job, but do wonder whether the effort is appreciated and wonder how well I thanked my committee for my master’s and my PhD. Obviously most students do a fantastic job thanking their advisor, but do they also thank the folks who were a part of their committee, for the Director of Graduate Programs of the graduate program they were in, for the graduate coordinator who made sure they got the TA they were hoping for, that made sure faculty were covering them, etc. etc. I remember one of my PhD advisors reminded me to thank the grant coordinator and the graduate student administrator in case I didn’t remember to. They were on the top of my list because of all the emotional and logistical support. But, did I single out each committee member and say something about what they had done for me? To be honest, I think I just named them and thanked them. They did a service for me, they read my lengthy chapters, advised me on how to fill in gaps with courses, how to address critical questions, career advice. Now that I am a committee member, I realize how much did they did for me.

I recently finished teaching, and with all the challenges associated with the pandemic, I was thanked in ways I don’t believe I have been in the past. This year has been a hard one for our family, we lost three family members and two friends to COVID19. I have struggled to keep myself present to be there for my students, with so much grief in my heart.  Then, when it finally seems like maybe we will get to the other side of this crisis, and maybe I will be better able to mentor, to be an instructor or a PI, the thank yous came. The new GG Scholars students wrote me a thank you letter, that I will hold close to my heart. The level of gratitude floored me, gave me pause, and has made me reflect on how such a simple thing, thanking someone for their efforts, is so important. Even my undergraduates put together a card to thank me, after I felt like I had failed to teach them anything about conservation genetics. I was literally moved to tears. And, I realize I need to step back think about my time in graduate school and what I am also thankful for.

So here’s my thank yous: To my committee members Drs. Palumbi, Raimondi & Larson were fantastic and I am extremely grateful to each. Dr. Palumbi pushed me to include more theoretical aspects in my research and in framing several of my manuscripts (Obi Wan Palumbi!). Dr. Larson helped me become a scientist and taught me how to be a science writer (something I teach graduate students about now!). He was my master’s thesis advisor and I wish I had a picture of the first draft of my thesis with all his corrections including some colorful comments about some of my grammatical issues. He is one of my academic heroes and anyone who has worked with him can say the same. Dr. Pete Raimondi will likely go down as the one that I  aspire to be more like as an advisor. Not only was he crazy smart, with a wicked fast processor, but he was kind and caring. He made me feel he had my back, and given how contentious finding speciation in marine fish was, I needed it. My co-advisors Drs. Carr and Bernardi further shaped me as a scientists but also provided role models for how to mentor and how to create an inclusive and welcoming lab.  Dr. Grant, who was not officially on my committee, always challenged me to not overstate my results, did I really have the good to back it up!  So, THANK YOU for all you did for me! Better late than never, right?!?

To my students in my lab. I wouldn’t be anywhere without you. You’ve helped shape me as a mentor, pushed me to learn new things, appreciated my help, and helped to create a welcoming place for new ideas, for questions, for confusion, for support. Thank you Emily, Andy, Erica, Emma, Megan and Bradley. Yay you!

To the GG Scholars: what in the world, I pinch myself everyday to make sure I’m not dreaming you all up. What an extraordinary group of individuals that have started this program, made it better, pushed and challenged me to be a better instructor and mentor. We’ve collaboratively built something that I think is going to contribute to the new model of graduate training with consideration for mental health and well being and inclusivity at NC State.

To the greater GGI executive committee and community and all the mentors here at NC State that have supported me, trusted me, and appreciated the hard work building this program. To an extraordinary department head, Dr. Carolyn Mattingly, and all the faculty colleagues in the Biological Sciences, wow just wow. When I think about how hard I struggled here at NC State in my first home department, how difficult it was to be recognized, appreciated, and allowed excel, it’s amazing that I am where I am now and the contrast is profound.

With that I will sign out, but my challenge to you is to spend some time reflecting on what you are grateful for, however small, and reach out and let that person  or those people know. For those I haven’t thanked yet, it’s coming soon… This was written in June of 2021


About the Author:

Martha is the Director of the Genetics & Genomics Scholars graduate program and an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at NC State. She investigates evolutionary process of how species respond to rapid changes in their abiotic or biotic environments.