[Tide Bites]: A Summer Class Success Story

“Tide Bites” is the monthly newsletter of UW Friday Harbor Laboratories. This month, Professor Adam Summers reflects on the 25 year legacy of the ‘Fish Biomechanics’ summer course. Read a short exerpt below, or read the full story at: https://fhl.uw.edu/about/news-and-events/newsletters/. Graduate students and senior level undergrads are encouraged to apply now for summer courses at FHL.

“One class, five weeks, seven publications: that’s a Friday Harbor summer. The class did not just offer a one-time opportunity, it tied a group of young scientists together.”

– Professor Adam Summers, Friday Harbor Labs

As we take a break from FHL teaching for the winter quarter and retreat to warm labs full of good questions and better critters, it is a nice time to reflect on the impact of our educational mission.  This “Bite” is about a particular summer course but it could easily be about other courses from summer, fall, or spring.  In 1993 I came to Friday Harbor Labs to take the Fish Biomechanics course from Karel Liem and Bruce Miller.  Like many before and after me, the experience changed my life.  Karel, the Henry Bryant Bigelow Professor of Ichthyology, was my earliest and clearest example of the sheer fun to be had in the world of biology.  As Bruce identified fishes on the gravel of Jackson Beach, Karel walked around the group pointing out unusual morphology, strange behaviors, and interesting associations.  His wide grin and easy laugh made the waterside quizzes shine as opportunities to reveal preparation or show a currently-empty head ready to be filled.  Karel asked questions he did not know the answer to, some he should have (like the identity of tidepool sculpin number 3042) and many for which no one had an answer.  It was illuminating to see someone take joy in not knowing things; he viewed not knowing as an opportunity to learn.  I have never shaken that course.  I was the teaching assistant and eventually the instructor, and have continued teaching it with a distinguished cast of co-instructors.  In that time I have met so many wonderful students through teaching the Fish Biomechanics course. Some have in turn sent their own students who are now moving onward and interviewing for jobs.

[read the full article]