Sitting in what used to be Bob Maucks office, Iris Levin has the same severe ponytail and outgoing demeanor as her photograph from the summer of 2003. The photograph was taken on Kent Island, where Iris spent the summer before her junior year at Bowdoin studying savannah sparrows. Surrounding her are three other familiar faces on Kenyon’s campus: fellow ornathalostist Bob Mauck, recently hired chemistry faculty Katie Mauck, and Toshi Tsunekage. The Toshi reclining in the chair next to Iris has changed more obviously since the photo was taken. He wears glasses now, his hair is cropped closer to his head, and his face has lengthened somewhat since he was a senior at Skidmore.
Seventeen years since they met on Kent Island as undergraduates, Iris Levin and Toshi Tsunekage are the new biology faculty at Kenyon. Their offices are side by side on the third floor of Higley, and they are partners in research and in life. Iris will be replacing Bob Mauck as a professor of animal behavior, continuing the line of Kenyon professors whose beginnings can be traced back to a small research station off the coast of Canada.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Iris and Toshi about their journey to Kenyon, and their plans moving forward, including future research in Mongolia, China and Northern Japan.
I went abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark. I chose this program as a science major because I got to select a core course in the sciences (Medical Biotechnology), since I do enjoy science! Denmark has a thriving Biotechnology community. While abroad, I got to visit a lot of start-up biotechnology companies. One company is designing “oragami” drug delivery systems, where DNA is engineered to release drugs only in certain environments. Studying science abroad was fascinating: small differences in the culture and scientific community helped me see the discipline in a new light. I also valued the opportunity to explore academic subjects outside my chosen major while abroad. My all time favorite class was Holocaust and Genocide. This class was fascinating, and would not be the same anywhere else besides Europe. As a part of the course we were able to visit concentration camps. The dissonance between the peaceful canals dug by forced laborers for transportation really stuck with me, and shaped my understanding of the Holocaust in a visceral way. The opportunity to explore both science and new disciplines abroad was invaluable.
I think a lot of Molecular Biology majors, especially if they are premed, don’t think they have the flexibility to study abroad. My advice for students who want to go abroad: talk to your advisor or other students who have gone abroad in your major. It’s possible! My advice to science majors thinking about going abroad is to be mindful of your class schedule. Even as a sophomore, this will be helpful to more evenly distribute hard science courses so that you don’t have to take them all your senior year. Furthermore, talking to my friend who went abroad to Copenhagen as a science major was helpful in deciding to go abroad. It gave me the peace of mind that it was possible. Hearing about all her wonderful experiences got me excited for the opportunity and determined to go. I learned so many valuable things about myself while abroad, and am glad I asked for help so that I could take the time to go.
It’s late August, and a butterfly flits among the prairie flowers, unaware that it is taking it’s last sip of nectar. Armed with poison, nets and little plastic baggies, a pack of Intro Biology students are on the prowl. The student’s winged victims will be the subject of a series of labs, starting with morphological taxonomy and ending with DNA barcoding. Ultimately, the butterfly will join victims of years past in an ongoing diversity assessment of the Brown Family Environmental Center. The mastermind behind this annual slaughter of lepidoptera? Professor McMahon, lead director of Introductory Biology labs at Kenyon. I’ve come to ask her a few questions.
Biology 110 projects are about to begin! Every year, students in intro biology lab choose a mentor and an independant project to work on over the course of spring semester. Although it’s a great opportunity to explore, there are a lot of biology faculty to choose from, and deciding on a project can be daunting. Higley Headlines asked Biology and Molecular Biology upperclassmen to reflect on their experiences.